Homelessness is now the most important issue for residents of North Cowichan, according to the second-ever Citizen Satisfaction Survey conducted earlier this summer in the municipality.
Forty per cent of survey participants pointed to homelessness as the most important challenge facing North Cowichan, while just 13 per cent said it was the most important issue in the last satisfaction survey, held in 2019.
At 24 per cent, taxes were cited as the second-biggest concern and lack of affordable and available housing came in third at 19 per cent.
But, according to the survey, 95 per cent of residents rate the overall quality of life in North Cowichan as good or very good, 89 per cent are satisfied with the overall level and quality of services provided by the municipality, and 79 per cent feel that they get good value for their tax dollars.
Forum Research Inc. randomly selected and contacted 404 households via random dialing of landlines and cell phones between June 22 and July 12 to gather the information for the survey.
Forum Research said the results from this sample size are representative of North Cowichan’s residents aged 18 and older.
“By conducting these surveys every few years, we better understand how residents’ attitudes and priorities may be changing, and we can identify new or emerging issues facing the community,” said Mayor Al Siebring.
“While many of the results are positive, the results also reaffirm the areas that need more work as well as the local issues most important to residents. We will be able to use this information going forward when the next council evaluates and reassesses priorities.”
When asked about satisfaction with specific municipal services, fire protection, recreation and sports facilities, and drinking water scored the most satisfied among the survey participants.
In the survey in 2019, improving water quality was considered by residents to be the most important concern facing North Cowichan at the time.
But this summer’s survey identified that road maintenance, bylaw enforcement, community planning, and development and building permits are considered to be the primary areas for improvement.
At the council meeting on Aug. 17, Coun. Rosalie Sawrie pointed out that the survey found just 47 per cent like the changes in North Cowichan, while 76 per cent said they liked the changes in the municipality in 2019.
She asked Sarah Lam, from Forum Research, if the research found what types of changes the respondents were currently unhappy with.
Lam said those who said they didn’t like the changes were asked why during the interviews.
“The top two reasons were over-development of land and poor leadership,” she said.