Social Well-Being Tracker
Our social well-being indicators are based on social determinants of health. These indicators are the economic and social conditions that shape the health of individuals and communities. Social determinants of health also determine the extent to which a person possesses the physical, social, and personal resources to identify and achieve personal aspirations, satisfy needs, and cope with the environment. Social determinants of health are about the quantity and quality of a variety of resources that a society makes available to its members. Important considerations include both the quality and their distribution amongst the population. 1
We have organized our social well-being indicators into seven main categories: A - Demographics, B - Income (B - Income, has been separated into four subcategories to handle the complexity and volume of data in this indicator) BA - Income and Income Gaps, BB - Poverty, BC - Cost of Living, BD - Government Transfers, C - Employment and Labour, D - Education and Literacy, E - Built Environment, F - Social Inclusion, G - Health and Health Services.
For almost everyone, housing represents the largest living cost. The availability, affordability, and adequacy of housing is therefore crucial to quality of life for both renters and homeowners.
Renters tend to have lower and more variable incomes and are therefore less able to afford substantial rent increases or the cost of purchasing a home. Vulnerable groups that face barriers, such as recent immigrants, refugees, and Indigenous peoples, often live in crowded or substandard housing.
Home ownership rates are an indicator of the overall level of financial independence in a community. Buying a home requires savings that many low- and moderate-income families do not have. Rising housing costs can make it more difficult to enter the housing market.
Incomes are intricately linked to housing affordability. If incomes do not keep up with the rising cost of housing, people’s ability to cover other living costs and to save for their future (education, retirement, etc.) declines.
Policymakers and program planners need to be aware of these trends to anticipate and appropriately respond to housing needs. Rising rents and decreasing vacancy rates, for example, signal a need for increased rent subsidies and affordable rental housing.
Vacancy rates for rental properties in Edmonton fluctuate year to year. Since the last Tracking the Trends was published in 2018, the vacancy rate has decreased. Rent, on the other hand, has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, except for the past five years in which it has remained stable.
In 2020, ESPC has switched from reporting data from the Point-in-Time (PiT) counts to the By Name List (BNL) to show a more nuanced understanding of homelessness in Edmonton. PiT counts are conducted every two years, and involve volunteers going into the community to survey the number of homeless persons in a city and collect basic demographic data. These counts give a snapshot of homelessness in each community at a specific moment. In contrast to the PiT count, BNL data shows how homelessness in Edmonton fluctuates throughout the year. A BNL is a list of all individuals identified by service providers to be homeless. The BNL list is updated daily monthly as individuals move in and out of homelessness within internal databases, while the public dashboard is updated monthly. The BNL is a community collaboration that, involves more than 60 service providers around the city. Coverage is more comprehensive than ever before, giving a more accurate understanding of the status quo). The BNL documents things such as the number of people who are actively homeless, what services they might be accessing, and the type of housing they are currently accessing (if any). This gives a real-time indication of trends in community and helps planning around meeting people’s housing needs. This allows the homeless system to quickly respond to those entering the homeless system, better meet their needs, and understand more about who is becoming homeless is and why (CAEH, 2018).
Edmonton’s homeless population has an overrepresentation of Indigenous persons; Indigenous peoples make up 6% of Edmonton’s population, but two-thirds of those experiencing homelessness. Contrary to popular belief, many homeless people in Edmonton have a roof over their heads, but their accommodations are unsafe, overcrowded, and/or temporary.
Note: Data on the percentage of dwellings owned or rented, and core housing need were left out of this edition because this information comes from the Federal Census and therefore has not been updated since the last Tracking the Trends. Refer to Tracking the Trends 2018 for this data.