With breathtaking natural beauty, cultural diversity, and a mild climate, it’s no surprise British Columbia is a highly sought-after place to live. The one feature that isn’t as desirable as the rest is the high cost of living. Compared to other provinces in Canada, your money likely won’t stretch as far in B.C.
This article explores the factors that contribute to the high cost of living in B.C. and what you can do if you can no longer afford to pay your bills.
Why is B.C. so Expensive?
According to the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Vancouver, B.C. ranked as the second most expensive city in Canada, after Toronto. Other studies have ranked Vancouver as the most expensive city in Canada and B.C. as the least affordable province.
What elevates the cost of living in B.C. making it such an expensive place to call home?
Part of the explanation comes down to simple supply and demand. Since B.C. is such a desirable place to live, there’s a high demand, but a limited supply of land and housing.
Other factors that contribute to the high cost of living in B.C. include:
The story of high inflation is not unique to British Columbia. However, when the cost of living is already steep, any increase in food, fuel, or housing can start to strain the budget. While inflation is trending down compared to its peak of 8.1% in June 2022, rates are still high.
According to the most recent B.C. Consumer Price Index (CPI), prices for items including food, health, shelter, clothing, transportation, and more are an average of 3.8% higher as of August 2023 than they were in August 2022. Food prices have the highest increase with consumers paying 6.3% more for groceries this year as compared to this time last year.
Vancouver home prices are among the highest in the country. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reports that the average cost of a home in Canada is $636,516 compared to $956,344, in B.C., and over $1.2 million in the Greater Vancouver area. It’s no wonder first-time homebuyers are struggling to enter the market in this province.
Affordability isn’t much better for renters. The average price of a one-bedroom rental in Vancouver is nearly $3,000, and almost $4,000 for a 2-bedroom, according to Rentals.ca.
Wages and salaries
The average weekly wage rate in B.C. as of August 2023 is $1,238. Experts recommend you spend no more than 32% of your gross (pre-tax) income on housing costs. This includes your utilities, condo fees, and property taxes in addition to rent or mortgage. Using this metric, there’s no way the average worker can afford a one-bedroom rental, let alone their other daily living expenses.
In June 2023, the minimum wage increased from $15.65 to $16.75. However, even with this boost, an individual will likely need to take on a side hustle (or two) or another full-time job to achieve a living wage in B.C.
With employment at a record high in B.C. and the unemployment rate near a historical low, there are job opportunities in the province.
According to the British Columbia Labour Market Outlook for 2022 to 2023, over the next decade, B.C. expects to have over 1 million job openings. Over half of these jobs will be to replace workers leaving the job force, mainly due to retirement.
However, nearly 80% of all job openings will require some form of post-secondary education or training.
This means there aren’t as many opportunities for minimum wage or unskilled workers, and job seekers will need to gain new skills and competencies. Yet, the price of training and post-secondary education continues to rise.
Cost of Living in Canada
It’s clear that living in B.C. is expensive but where does the province rank in the cost of living comparison with the other provinces in Canada?
A recent study by the financial website Savvy New Canadians’ reviewed income and expense data collected from Statistics Canada to compare the cost of living in Canada’s ten provinces. British Columbia ranked as the least affordable province, and Vancouver took the top spot for the least affordable city.
The estimated annual cost of living in B.C. was $79,591 with an average median household income of $97,800.
Quebec topped the list as the most affordable province, followed by Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
The cost of living seems to increase as you move West across the country. The cost of living was ranked third highest in Manitoba, second in Saskatchewan, and first in British Columbia.
How to Manage Debt in British Columbia
If you live in B.C. and you’re dealing with mounting household debt due to high food prices, gas prices, and rent prices, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) can help. Licensed Insolvency Trustees are debt experts who offer a wide range of debt management solutions, including:
In a credit counselling session, your LIT can work with you to get to the root of your debt issues. Your LIT can also provide knowledge and tools to get out of debt. For instance, your LIT might teach you how to create a monthly budget and how to use it to pay off your debt.
A Consumer Proposal is a legal process that can only be administered by an LIT. For many people, a Consumer Proposal is a good alternative to filing for Bankruptcy. In a Proposal, you and your LIT create an offer to your creditors to pay a percentage of your debt, extend the time you have to pay, or both. The maximum term for a Proposal is five years.
While no one wants to file for Bankruptcy, in many cases it can be a good solution. The purpose of Bankruptcy is not to punish. Instead, it’s to give honest Canadians who are down on their luck a second chance. In Bankruptcy, you are discharged from many of your unsecured debts, and in exchange, your LIT will sell some of your assets. An LIT is the only professional authorized to administer Bankruptcy in Canada.
Get Help Managing Finances: Speak to an LIT Today
If you’re struggling to manage the high cost of living in B.C., you’re not alone. At Allan Marshall and Associates, we’ve been helping Canadians overcome their debt for over thirty- years, and we’re here to help you.
If you want assistance managing your finances, give us a call. One of our trusted debt professionals can work with you to assess your debt and determine the best solution to move forward. When you’re ready, call us for a free, no-obligation consultation at 1-888-371-8900 or complete our online contact form, and we’ll get in touch with you.