Median income highest at Sylvan

Full-time workers who live in Sylvan Lake have the highest median employment income in Central Alberta, followed by Olds, Lacombe, Innisfail and Red Deer.

Full-time workers who live in Sylvan Lake have the highest median employment income in Central Alberta, followed by Olds, Lacombe, Innisfail and Red Deer.

The results come from Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey.

Full-time, full-year workers in Sylvan Lake earned a median of $58,254 in 2010. The median for Olds workers was $53,473. In Lacombe, it was $53,212. Innisfail came in at $52,591 and for Red Deer it was $51,776.

The median for Albertans was $55,507 and for Canadians it was $47,868.

Albertans may earn the most across Canada, but income is only part of the cost of living equation.

Affordable housing is out of reach for more people in Blackfalds and Red Deer than other Central Alberta communities.

In Blackfalds, 27.8 per cent of residents spend 30 per cent or more of their income towards housing. Red Deer follows close behind at 26.5 per cent.

That’s more than the Alberta average of 23.7 per cent and the Canadian average of 25.2 per cent.

Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance co-chair Lori Jack said spending 30 per cent or more on a mortgage or rent means people might not have enough money for other necessities.

“That money is being taken away from other needs you may have. It puts you at risk in other areas of your life. What would you sacrifice in order to maintain housing?” Jack said on Monday.

In Red Deer, the average monthly shelter costs for a renter was $1,018 in 2010. The average rent was $1,079 in Alberta and $848 in Canada.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said Red Deer is a catchment area for people in Central Alberta who need social support services so they tend to move to Red Deer.

“We tend to have a fairly high family income level. But we have a certain percentage of our population who are living in poverty and very often that part of the population is identified as single-parent families, often mothers with children,” Flewwelling said.

“It grieves me to know that there are children living in poverty who are relying on the clothing bank and the food bank. They learn very quickly that they’re marginalized and marginalized young people tend to grow up as marginalized adults. It’s a self-perpetuating and very unforgiving fact of life.”

Halina Jarvis, executive director of Loaves and Fishes, said the charity made 1,449 lunches for Red Deer students in need in the first 10 days of school this month.

“Compared to last year, it’s up about 200. It was about 1,200 last September,” Jarvis said.

She said by the end of the 2011-12 school year, about 300 lunches were given out each day.

“Once you’re in crisis, it’s very hard to get out, especially if you’re a single mom,” Jarvis said.

Red Deer Food Bank executive director Fred Scaife said single parents make up about 30 per cent of people who use the local food bank.

“Fifteen years ago, the highest demographic was single adults. Typically they were male, 20s to 30s, with some sort of life skills disorder. Now it’s a totally different picture. The No. 1 demographic is two-parent households and single-parent households,” Scaife said.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com