Downtown Kelowna

Several Kelowna RCMP members were needed to restrain a person causing a disturbance in downtown Kelowna in April 2016. More than a third of city residents believe the quality of life has deteriorated in the past three years, and concerns about crime and drug use are among the reasons, a new survey has found.

More than a third of city residents believe the quality of life in Kelowna has worsened in the past three years.

A rise in homelessness, crime, poverty, and traffic congestion are most commonly cited as reasons for a deteriorating quality of life in Kelowna.

And almost half of Kelowna residents believe community safety has worsened since 2015, a deeply pessimistic outlook that wasn’t seen just a few years ago.

The results of the annual citizen survey, to be presented to council today, will likely be of concern to municipal leaders as it suggests residents believe serious social problems are undermining Kelowna’s attractiveness and livability.

“While perceptions of overall quality of life remain high, there is growing negative momentum to the direction that quality of life is taking,” Catherine Knaus of Ipsos Public Affairs, the company that conducted the citizen survey, writes in a report to council.

“Social issues are a growing concern and continue to top the public issue agenda,” Knaus writes. “Addressing social issues such as homelessness, mental health, and addiction is citizens’ leading priority for municipal investment.”

“(C)rime is a growing top-of-mind issue and residents feel less safe now as compared to three years ago,” Knaus says.

On the positive side, from the city’s point of view, is that satisfaction with municipal services remains high, at 87 per cent. However, even this is a drop from 94 per cent in 2015, and is below the provincial average of 93 per cent.

Greatest public satisfaction is expressed with the fire department, the condition of parks and sports fields, and recreation programs. People are least happy with traffic flow management.

Almost 80 per cent believe they get good or very good value for their tax dollars, just slightly below the provincial average.

Fifty-five per cent said they would support an increase in municipal taxes, which have risen about 20 per cent in the past four years, to maintain or expand city services.

On the quality of life question, 36 per cent believe it has worsened in the past three years against only 21 per cent who believe it has improved. That results in a ‘net score’ of minus 15, which is a big drop from the ‘net score of plus 12 in 2015 and far below the provincial average of plus two.

The 2018 citizen survey was based on telephone interviews with 300 residents and is said to be accurate to within 5.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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