There is a term for the situation when employees can’t or don’t live where the jobs are located: economists call it “spatial mismatch”.
In some cities this condition is very pronounced. Think San Francisco. Boston. New York City. And to a lesser degree, Vancouver, Victoria, and the Saanich Peninsula. When housing costs are prohibitive, workers, especially those who are lower-income earners, are forced to live further and further away from their jobs.
We are beginning to see significant consequences of this mismatch. In the San Francisco area, some restaurants can’t hire servers so, by necessity, they have gotten creative and have put their patrons to work. There are fine dining restaurants that have become self-serve. Diners find their own tables, get their own water, order drinks and food at a counter and often bus their own dirty dishes. Perhaps not surprisingly, more people are opting for take-out than eating-in. Locally, a lack of available staff has resulted in Help Wanted signs popping up and some businesses have had to reduce the hours they are open.
In recognition of the growing divide, some cities and regions have developed strategies to connect low-wage workers to good jobs. Many of the jobs that go unfilled are those in the service industry. Employees are more likely to travel longer distances for a position that pays competitive wages and offers a benefits package. Employers are creating entry-level jobs and demonstrating the potential for those positions to lead to a career. Wherever possible, housing is being created adjacent to jobs and transit. Employers are offering predictable and regular hours that coincide with transit schedules and are providing employees complimentary bus passes.
Connecting workers and employers across our region will remain an issue for the foreseeable future. Addressing this lopsided supply will require local governments and companies (and organizations like ours) to innovate a Saanich Peninsula solution.