COVID-19 impact on Vancouver economy hitting residents hard: survey

VANCOUVER Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Sunday released results of an online survey conducted by an independent research firm for his office about the economic impacts of COVID-19 on residents of the City of Vancouver.

“The research is clear – the City’s finances are going to be negatively affected by COVID-19 due to lost revenues and hard-hit homeowners defaulting on their property taxes,” said Stewart. “It’s illegal for Vancouver and other local governments to run deficits, so the only way we can stay afloat is with the help of the federal and provincial governments. Otherwise, local governments will be forced to take drastic measures that will hurt residents and businesses, and significantly slow any post-pandemic economic recovery.”

The survey, completed for the Mayor’s Office by Research Co., shows that 46 percent of those living in the city have either lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in hours. This has led to half of all households reporting an overall decrease in income, with 24 percent experiencing a significant decrease.

For homeowners, only 68 percent said they could pay their full mortgage payment last month, and only 55 percent say they will be able to do the same in May. On property tax, 25 percent say they will pay less than half of their 2020 tax bills, with six percent planning to pay nothing at all.

For renters, only 70 percent managed to pay their full rent in April, with only 63 percent saying they can pay their full rent in May. 

“My heart goes out to those who have lost their jobs, or are experiencing a significant reduction in work due to COVID-19,” said Stewart. “I am especially concerned for those renters having trouble making their rent and homeowners who cannot make their full mortgage payments.”

With the City of Vancouver already anticipating up to $189 million in losses this year due to shortfalls in revenues and fees, Stewart called these new findings alarming and said they point to a coming crisis for the City’s own finances.

“If 25 percent of homeowners do end up defaulting on their property taxes, we could shed up to an additional $325 million in revenues,” said Stewart. “Losing more than half-a-billion dollars in operating funds in 2020 would devastate the City’s financial position, forcing us to liquify assets and exhaust every reserve fund we have — just to avoid insolvency.”

The online survey was conducted by Research Co. between April 9 and April 10. The results for employed residents are based on a sample of 421 Vancouver residents, with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent. The results for homeowners are based on a sample of 278 Vancouver residents, with a margin of error of +/- 5.9 percent. The results for renters are based on a sample of 301 Vancouver residents, with a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percent.