Satisfaction levels amongst Maple Ridge residents have been steadily deteriorating, city council learned on Jan. 31.
In 2014, 84 per cent of citizens surveyed said that they were either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the quality of life in Maple Ridge, but that number has since dropped to 73 per cent in 2022.
Similarly, the number of people who rank themselves among the dissatisfied has risen from nine per cent to 18 per cent in the same time period.
Homelessness, poverty, growing crime, traffic, and transportation issues are what residents least like about Maple Ridge, the survey found.
It also reported that access to the outdoors and recreation continues to be what people like most about living in their city.
Councillors talked about the survey results for more than an hour at a council workshop meeting.
The most satisfaction on record was in 2003, when 89 per cent of residents were satisfied, and just nine per cent were dissatisfied.
The Sentis Group did the survey work for the city, and noted a majority of people continue to say they are satisfied with the quality of life in Maple Ridge.
Sentis sent letters to a random sample of 4,200 residents, inviting them to participate in an online survey. There was a prize draw offered as an incentive. Just one person per household could respond, and they had to be 18 or older. There were 643 completed surveys.
People were asked what they considered the most pressing issue in the community, and leading the mentions at 42 per cent was homelessness. Addiction and drug use came in at 25 per cent, and crime and safety were listed at 20 per cent.
People were asked what kind of community they would like to see Maple Ridge become in future.
Topping all responses was “a safe community” at 25 per cent. In second place was “somewhere with more shopping/restaurants” at 21 per cent.
Councillor Ahmed Yousef said he was surprised to see the highest percentage of respondents focused on homelessness and poverty. The second-year councillor said the city’s Community Safety Officers program, and the Community Social Safety Initiative have both received positive reviews in dealing with issues around homelessness.
Staff responded that there is evidence of a reduction in dissatisfaction in this area, and it may be due to these new city initiatives making an impact. In 2020, 35 per cent of people listed homelessness/poverty as what they least like about living in Maple Ridge. In 2022 it was still the most cited issue – but for 27 per cent of people, resulting in an eight per cent decline.
Yousef also said the city’s “infrastructure deficit” continues to be an issue, and the city should look at “new models of partnering with private sector and provincial or regional bodies to bring in those recreational facilities that we are definitely needing in our community.”
Coun. Judy Dueck said she strongly supports the surveys, because they let councillors know if they are on the right track.
“Shopping has come up in every election that I’ve ever run in,” she noted.
The survey also found declining satisfaction with municipal services. It has dropped from 53 per cent in 2014 to 43 per cent in 2022 who rated their satisfaction as “very good” or “good”.
Similarly, the perceived value of city services for their tax dollars has declined, from 33 per cent in 2014 rating it “very good” or “good”, down to 21 per cent in 2022.
Mayor Dan Ruimy suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown may have influenced people’s opinions, but staff had no data or comparisons from other cities that might support that viewpoint.
“The timing of receiving this report is key,” said city CAO Scott Hartman. “This council is getting into the minutiae now of your strat plan (strategic plan) for the next four years, staff are actively working on business planning, and our capital working committee is busy putting together a list of priorities that will be coming to you at the end of March.”
The city’s top staffer said the survey results confirm they are “pointed in the right direction.”
The survey is considered to have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The next survey is scheduled for 2024.
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