Highlights from the 2019 Nanaimo Vital Signs report

The 2019 Nanaimo’s Vital Signs report was released today and the data indicates the city is in need of help. With a steadily growing population, increasing housing costs, and shocking crime rates, we need to continue to take action, now more than ever. Organizations like United Way are always analyzing data, like those presented in this report, to ensure our efforts are directed in the right place. We use this information to guide how and where we target our efforts to make the biggest impact possible.

Thank you to the Nanaimo Foundation for creating this important analysis in partnership with the Nanaimo Foundation, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, Island Savings, and the City of Nanaimo.

For more information on Vital Signs and the full source document, visit:

Highlights from the 2019 Nanaimo Vital Signs report

Although the percentage of people in Nanaimo spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs has dropped slightly, the drastic increase in housing prices, minimal vacancy rates, and limited new purpose-built units have had a concerning impact on the housing affordability and accessibility in the region. These are factors in the results from the 2018 Point-in-Time count that identified a 92.5 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo; that is 161 more people between February 2016 and April 2018.


  • The percentage of those in Nanaimo spending 30% or more of their before-tax household income on housing costs has dropped.
    • Owner households dropped from 21.8% in 2006 to 16.7% in 2016
    • Renter households dropped from 48.2% in 2006 to 47.4% in 2016


  • Single-family home price increased 58.6% since 2015, at an average cost of $557,500.
  • The vacancy rate was nearly cut in half from 2014 to 2018; it dropped from 4.5% to 2.4%.
  • As of March 2019, Nanaimo had 444 applicant households on the waitlist for subsidized housing.


Community health

Nanaimo is not exempt from the opioid epidemic. At the height of it in 2018, the city’s death rate related to illicit drugs was 27.5 points higher than the provincial rate. We know that one segment of our community is particularly vulnerable: men over 40 years of age. This population may not fall into the common expectations of what a drug user looks like but this is why we need to share resources and reduce the stereotypes. Local agencies and organizations have been working hard to keep the public spaces safe by picking up 1,232 needles last year.


Although the overall number of people in Nanaimo living in poverty is more than it was in 2013, the amount of youth and children in this group has dropped by 600.


  • Drug-related death rates per 100,000 residents
    • 2014- 17.9
    • 2015- 19.7
    • 2016- 29.6
    • 2017- 58.3
    • 2018- 34.8


  • In 2017 and 2018, 76% of people who died of illicit drug overdoses were male, while 24% were female.
  • 47% of people who died of illicit drug overdoses during this period were under 40 years old, while 53% were 40 years old or older.
  • There were 910 more people living in poverty in 2017 than in 2012.
  • There were 600 fewer children and youth living in poverty in 2017 than in 2012.
  • There were 1,430 more seniors living in poverty in 2017 than in 2012.


Crime rates have increased drastically since 2013 according to the Vital Signs data.

  • Crime rate increased 13.9% from 2013 to 2018.
  • Motor vehicle theft rate increased 28% from 2013 to 2018.
  • Juvenile violent crime rate increased 21.55% from 2013 to 2018.

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