Fernie seen from Mount Fernie. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie seen from Mount Fernie. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

‘Living wage’ in Fernie at $23.58 per hour

That’s how much two parents need to earn (each) per hour to support a family of four in Fernie

You need to earn $23.58 an hour to get by in Fernie according to data collected by the Elk Valley Economic Initiative (EVEI).

That number isn’t for everyone – it’s how much two parents need to earn (each) working full time to support a family of four, paying for rent, food and utilities along with everything else the modern families needs to survive like internet access, childcare and health expenses among other things.

The minimum wage in British Columbia is $15.65 per hour.

EVEI coordinator Taylor Jenkins said that it was rental costs that were driving up the cost of living locally.

“There has been a significant increase in the cost of rent in Fernie in the last year alone. This issue has a wide-ranging social and economic impact and needs to be addressed, with urgent action taken at local and regional levels,” he said.

“We need to identify how municipalities, housing societies, developers, and the EVEI can work together to increase the supply of rental, workforce, and affordable housing in the Elk Valley.”

2022 is the first year where the living wage has been calculated in Fernie, and Jenkins (who did the calculating) said that the number wasn’t surprising.

“It’s in line with similar resort communities, and when you calculate the rent increases in Fernie it’s no surprise that (the living wage is) skyrocketing because the cost of rent is so high.”

The local data was released on November 17 along with a report by Living Wage for Families BC which included living wage data for 22 communities.

Included in that report is nearby Golden, which has a higher living wage than Fernie, at $25.56, while Revelstoke has a living wage of $23.60.

According to Jenkins, the number for Fernie is on the conservative side of calculations given the rapidly changing economic environment.

In the Columbia Valley, the living wages have been calculated to have risen by as much as 25 percent since they were done last year.

According to Anastasia French of Living Wage for Families BC, food and shelter are the two driving forces for the increase.

“With general inflation shooting up to a 40-year high this year, and with the cost of food rising even faster and rent increasing everywhere, especially for families that need to move and are no longer protected by rent control, it’s not surprising to see such big increases this year,” she said.

Food has recently overtaken childcare costs as the second-most expensive driver of cost of living expenses.

Mayor of Fernie, Nic Milligan said that the high price of housing was a known challenge to the community.

“As the report indicates, we need to identify how municipalities, housing societies, developers, and others can work together to collectively address this issue,” he said.

“Council will be striking a multi-stakeholder housing committee to bring together the right expertise to generate solutions, and staff are advancing assessments of municipal properties that could potentially be useful as part of those solutions.”

The city council previously established an Affordable Housing Reserve during the 2022 budget process by adding an extra percent to the annual tax increase. “As that fund grows the City will have more ability to directly support solutions,” said Milligan.

While the EVEI has so far only done one year of calculations for Fernie, Jenkins said they plan to include separate calculations for Sparwood and Elkford next year.

READ MORE: EVEI publishes Fernie, Sparwood, Elkford community profiles

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