by Anne Jardine
All examples cited in this series of articles on Affordability are based on real experiences recounted by East and West Kootenay people living with affordability concerns.
What does affordability mean? It means that a person’s or a family’s income is enough to cover their basic expenses. What are basic expenses? Those are the pay-outs you have to come up with every month no matter what.
Housing costs are usually the biggest expense – these include your rent or mortgage payment plus the utilities, heat, water, and electricity that keep your house functional, your strata fees if you have them, plus your home insurance and property taxes. Economists and financial advisors use the 30% rule. Your housing costs should not exceed more than 30% of your total net income.
Food costs include your groceries, your restaurant, take-out and delivery costs, plus your incidental snacks or coffee stops.
Transportation costs include your car payments, plus car insurance, fuel, parking, and maintenance costs; or if you don’t own a car, your public transit pass, your bus or cab fare, car rental expenses, or your car co-op membership costs.
Child Care costs include your daycare fees, plus any additional and occasional babysitting expenses.
Medical expenses are anything that your public health insurance or extended health plan doesn’t cover, such as prescription medications, menstrual products, contraceptive products, chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, dentist, optometrist, psychotherapist, etc.
Hygiene costs include what you pay out for your personal care products, your laundry, haircuts or styling, manicures, pedicures, etc.
Fitness costs may include regular memberships for gym, yoga club, swimming pool, dance classes, etc.
Drugs & Alcohol need to be taken into account as regular expenses if you generally need them to make it through the day.
Communication expenses include your phone, internet, cable or wi-fi connectivity bills.
Debt Repayment costs for student loans, credit card payments, or personal loans.
Entertainment costs include going out on the town to concerts, theatre, movies, exhibits, holiday travel, etc.
Emergency costs are not necessarily monthly, but can be devastating when an unforeseen issue arises such as major car repair, replacement of a costly household appliance, etc. Do you have savings set aside for emergencies? Many people don’t. Once they pay their essential monthly bills, there is not enough left over to accumulate in an emergency fund. The lack of such a fund can lead people or families into debt.
Affordability means you can cover your costs and provide for all your life’s necessities with a little left over for entertainment and emergencies.
The New Democratic Party is determined to improve affordability by: increasing minimum wage, developing more affordable housing options, introducing prescription medicines and dental costs into public health coverage, improving public transit systems, bringing in universal $10/day child care, removing interest on student loans and setting up grant programs for post-secondary studies and regulating internet costs.
This excerpt from the New Democrats’ 2021 Election Platform Ready for Better, affirms the need to make life more affordable for everyone.
“Across the country, people are having a harder and harder time keeping up. They keep hearing about the economy doing well for the rich, but they’re not seeing the benefits for their families.
Decades of Liberal and Conservative governments have stripped away the services that made it possible to live a good life. It’s harder to afford a good place to live, to pay for an education, take care of aging parents, and to cover electricity and cell phone bills, prescriptions, and dentist appointments.
But we can make different choices – we can invest in things like health care, affordable housing, and child care. We can tackle the things that are keeping people up at night worrying – and make sure everyone can afford a good life.”