SURREY – The City of Surrey got its first-ever quality of life report card Tuesday morning and was handed a mediocre grade from residents.
The city scored an overall grade of C, or "average," from the 571 residents who participated in the online survey in which they were asked to grade their community on everything from crime to the economy.
The Vital Signs report is a national initiative by Community Foundations of Canada combining statistical data and public perspective into a report, and this was the first time it was done in Surrey.
SurreyCares, in partnership with the Surrey Board of Trade, revealed the results of the initiative Oct. 7 at Surrey Arts Centre.
"The study reveals that residents have an honest, community-driven pride and a deep interest in where we are going," said Jeff Hector, president of SurreyCares.
"They say that data drives action. We hope this is true for Surrey. Surrey’s Vital Signs celebrates our successes, and it shines the spotlight on areas that need our attention," Hector said.
He added the city is "going through some growing pains" and the report has "exposed them," noting he hopes the study’s results will help shape the city as it grows.
The city received a D+, or "requires improvement," for safety (2.5/5), transportation (2.5/5), standard of living (2.8/5) and housing (2.8/5).
"Satisfactory" marks, Cs, were given for arts and culture (3.4/5), economy and work (3.4/5) and the environment (3.4/5).
When it comes to public safety and crime, the survey found people wish to see more police officers and want action to be taken on the link between mental health and crime.
The report states the overall crime rate in Surrey has dropped by 11 per cent since 2009: violent crime by 37 per cent, youth crime by 37 per cent, vehicle theft by 29 per cent and property crime by 2.5 per cent.
But when comparing Surrey to the entire province in 2013, the report states overall crime is 12 per cent higher in Surrey than the provincial average, and that homicides are happening more than twice as often in Surrey than the B.C. average. Vehicle theft is also higher, 135 per cent more, along with break and enters (32 per cent) and property crime (28 per cent).
Transportation also received a failing grade, and survey respondents said they would like to see transit improvements in the city, as well as bridge tolls becoming "affordable and fair," and for SkyTrain and bus service to operate later at night.
The report noted getting around Surrey is difficult, and infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth. The report said 60 per cent of Surrey workers travel outside of the city to get to work every day and the average commute time in Surrey takes half an hour – 10 minutes longer than the provincial and national average.
When it came to improving the local economy, the report found residents want to increase local jobs, service industrial and business areas with transit, as well as clean up the city.
As for the environment, which received a grade of C, residents surveyed said they’d like to stop or slow down the loss of trees, and maintain the protection of agricultural land and natural areas. Residents expressed pride in the city’s recycling and food scrap collection program – which diverted Surrey’s garbage by 68 per cent in 2013 – and the many parks and natural areas in the city.
In the survey, residents praised the local arts and culture scene, noting the many festivals and libraries, but would like to see more neighbourhood events and promotion of those that already exist.
Praised in the report were the Surrey Library’s reading clubs for children, the largest in the province, and festivals including the Vaisakhi parade, which is attended by more than 200,000 people a year.
In addition to questions on each topic, the survey also looked at things residents loved – and things residents want to see improved – in the community.
The survey found residents believe the top 10 things to celebrate about the community are parks; festivals and events; locally grown food; the natural environment; diverse cultures; the growing economy; recreation opportunities; friends and family; good governance and people.
When it came to the top 10 things to improve, residents reported crime as the top issue, followed by transit, mental illness, addiction, community planning, housing options and affordability, health care, employment opportunities, schools (K-12) and poverty.
Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade, said the study "ties in livability with economic development."
"Some are surprising and some are results that we already knew," she said of the findings. "All of these results will be fed into the Surrey Board of Trade’s advocacy teams to instigate change," she noted, adding the report shows what the focus needs to be to create a "more vibrant, more livable city."
Surrey’s next Vital Signs report, set for 2017, is planned to focus on youth.
Read the full report at Surreycares.org.