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B.C.'s $15 minimum wage a good start but not enough, says housing advocate

Last Updated May 31, 2021 at 11:26 am PDT

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Housing advocate says $15.20/hour still not enough for people to afford one-bedroom rents in places like Vancouver

B.C.'s minimum wage increases on Tuesday to $15.20 from $14.60

Advocate says while hike to minimum wage a good start, many front-line workers still without key benefits

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s minimum wage breaks through the $15-an-hour mark this week, but one housing advocate says it’s not doing much to help people afford to put a roof over their head.

Justin Fung with HALT YVR says the increase in minimum wage on Tuesday to $15.20 an hour from $14.60 is a step in the right direction. However, he notes home prices and rents are incredibly high in place like Vancouver.

“You’re looking at $1,700, $1,800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city of Vancouver … On a minimum wage job, that’s not going to be a rent that you can afford without having a few roommates,” he explained.

Fung says even with the gradual raise in minimum wage from $11.35 per hour four years ago, inequality is an issue that keeps growing in Metro Vancouver. He says people working at this rate are often front-line workers without many benefits.

“And in those situation, even if the minimum wage has gone up, there isn’t paid sick leave. We’ve seen from the data that folks that are working in these types of jobs have been far more likely to have gotten sick. These are the hot spots in the region,” he said.

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The last hike to B.C.’s minimum wage took place in June of last year, jumping by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour.

“I think there’s a lot more that could be done,” Fung explained. “Paid sick leave would probably be the biggest one, especially in the face of this pandemic, in terms of giving people a little bit more stability in their lives.”

With no federal paid sick day program in sight, the province announced in May 2021 that it was starting its own stop-gap for those without sick pay until they can access federal money.

Under its own program, B.C. workers will receive up to three days of paid sick leave until the end of 2021. Labour Minister Harry Bains said on May 11 that legislation would be effective until Dec. 31.

Some advocates said at the time that, while the province argues this program acts as a bridge to a federal sick leave benefit, there are still gaps.