Four ways life could get pricier in B.C. in 2024, and a handful of ways it might not

Click to play video: 'Life to get pricier for British Columbians in 2024'
Life to get pricier for British Columbians in 2024
New year, new costs. Some expenses are set to go higher for British Columbians in 2024, as the price of food, travel and utilities continue to climb. Janet Brown has the details on what you can expect – Jan 1, 2024

High inflation and interest rates pinched many British Columbians in 2023, and while Canada’s economy appears to be cooling, experts warn that future hikes are still possible for 2024.

As the country works towards price stability, the Conference Board of Canada’s chief economist fears there’s “a fair bit of pain” to come in the year ahead. In B.C., the cost of an average home or grocery bill is indeed forecast to rise, but it’s not all bad news, Pedro Antunes told Global News.

“We are seeing inflation rates coming down and we are seeing wages, in general, outpacing inflation,” Antunes said.

“That means we’re kind of regaining some purchasing power and that’s good news for households for next year.”

From rent to restaurants, here are four ways life is about to get more expensive in 2024 — and a handful of ways that it probably won’t.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'B.C. families face another year of rising food prices'
B.C. families face another year of rising food prices


According to the latest Canada Food Price Report, food prices across the country are projected to increase next year between 2.5 and 4.5 per cent. British Columbia’s increase is likely to reflect the national average, found by the research teams led by Dalhousie University, and the universities of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Guelph.

It’s a better forecast than for most — Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan are all predicted to have above-average price increases in 2024.

Overall, meat, bakery items and vegetables are expected to see the biggest cost increase at between five and seven per cent, while dairy products and fruit may only increase by one to three per cent. The tab at restaurants is expected to rise between three and five per cent — the same increase forecast for seafood products.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'B.C. food price increases expected to remain close to national average in 2024'
B.C. food price increases expected to remain close to national average in 2024

According to the University of British Columbia’s academic director of Food and Resource Economics, B.C.’s proximity to fresh food suppliers like California and Mexico should offer some relief when it comes to produce.

“Our prices for those particular areas — fruits and vegetables and some of those fundamentals — are traditionally a little bit lower than in the rest of Canada,” said Kelleen Wiseman in a Dec. 7 interview.

“So our prices will go up, but in B.C. they won’t go up quite as much.”

According to Canada’s Food Price Report researchers, 2024’s increased costs could see a family of four spend up to $16,297.20 on average — an increase of about $701.79 compared with what was spent in 2023. A two-adult household is expected to spend about $7,715.78, an increase of about $4 from the predicted amount the year prior.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: '2024 Canada’s Food Price Report'
2024 Canada’s Food Price Report


British Columbians will also see slightly larger federal deductions on their pay stubs this year.

Ottawa has increased its Employment Insurance premium rate by three cents per every $100 earned by employees — a total that will see $46.67 more deducted in 2024 than in 2023. The maximum annual EI contribution for an employer will increase by $65.34 to $1,468.77 per employee as well.

The Canada Pension Plan ceiling goes up to $68,500 in 2024 from $66,600, meaning the maximum annual contribution for employers and staff goes up by $113.05, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Between all the EI and CPP changes on deck, the CFIB estimates payroll taxes will increase by up to $348 for employees next year, and up to $366 per employee for employers.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Focus BC: All in on CleanBC, expanding the speculation tax'
Focus BC: All in on CleanBC, expanding the speculation tax

Many municipalities in the province are also hiking property taxes in 2024.

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.

Get daily National news

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Vancouver’s mayor and council approved a 7.5-per-cent increase in its latest budget, meaning an extra $260 per year for a median detached home and just under $100 for a media condo unit.

Coquitlam has passed a property tax hike of 8.92 per cent, while Port Coquitlam is mulling a proposed hike of 5.58 per cent. Burnaby is floating an increase of 4.5 per cent and Surrey’s tax increase is predicted to be in the double digits as it faces a costly police transition.

Average single-family homeowners in Osoyoos, however, will face a whopping increase of about 39.3 per cent as the town grapples with a costly water system and wastewater management issues.

Story continues below advertisement

The BC Assessment Agency has further warned that 2023’s devastating and record-setting wildfire season could impact property assessments, and taxes, in 2024.

That said, moderate and low-income renters in the province will be eligible for up to $400 per year through a new income-tested provincial renter’s tax credit when they file their taxes in 2024.

Click to play video: 'Political battle heats up over home heating'
Political battle heats up over home heating


That doesn’t mean renters will be off the hook — the standard allowable rent increase for 2024 is 3.5 per cent, effective Jan. 1. That means a Vancouver renter paying the average $3,000-per-month rent for a one-bedroom could pay up to $1,260 more if a maximum rent increase is ordered.

That number reflects an intervention from the B.C. government, which bases the increase on the 12-month average per cent change in the all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI) for B.C. ending in July of the previous year. The average inflation rate in that period was 5.6 per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

As inflation returns to normal levels, however, the province has said it intends to return to an annual rent increase that is tied to B.C.’s CPI in future years.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver family faces rent hike when baby is born'
Vancouver family faces rent hike when baby is born

Buyers are also expected to face moderate increases in 2024. According to Royal LePage’s 2024 Market Survey Forecast, the aggregate price of a home in Greater Vancouver is expected to increase three per cent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2024 to $1.28 million. In the same timeframe, the median cost of a detached home is expected to rise 2.5 per cent to $1.77 million, while condos see an increase of four per cent to $795,808.

That will have markets in B.C. looking “much more normal,” said Royal LePage Sterling Realty managing broker Randy Ryalls.

“I don’t think we’re going to see huge competition among buyers in that marketplace, although we do expect a few to come back into the marketplace if the mortgage rates start to ease off a little bit, which we expect will happen,” he said. “We do think there will be a little bit more inventory, but the low inventory is still kind of the story of the day.”

Story continues below advertisement

Ryalls said he doesn’t expect any provincial housing promises to have a significant impact on prices next year, calling them “pretty long-term measures.”

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in 2024 and 2025, an estimated 45 per cent of all outstanding mortgages across the country will be facing “interest rate shock” as well.

Click to play video: 'How B.C.’s ambitious home building plans could lead to a drop in prices'
How B.C.’s ambitious home building plans could lead to a drop in prices


BC Hydro has requested a rate increase of 2.3 per cent in 2024, adding about $2 per month to the average residential bill.

It’s the sixth year in a row that BC Hydro has applied for an increase below the rate of inflation. The Ministry of Energy has said the “modest” increase is meant to reduce bill volatility from year to year.

Story continues below advertisement

The B.C. Utilities Commission is expected to approve or reject the increase in February.

Click to play video: 'Political battle heats up over home heating'
Political battle heats up over home heating

Better news for heat, insurance, child care

While it may seem like everything is getting more expensive, there are a few costs that are not forecast to rise in the new year.

There will be no basic rate change at ICBC in 2024, for example, and many FortisBC customers will see their bills drop if their usage remains consistent.

Customers in the Mainland and Vancouver Island will see a decrease of about $1 per month beginning Jan. 1, based on an average monthly consumption of 7.5 gigajoules. Those who subscribe to using renewable natural gas will also see their rates go down from $14.71 per gigajoule to $12.46.

Story continues below advertisement

Fort Nelson customers, unfortunately, will see prices go up by about 11.4 per cent — or $9.75 per month — based on average household consumption of about 10 gigajoules per month. The next cost review with the BC Utilities Commission will be in March 2024.

Click to play video: 'Flip flop on carbon pricing could mean free heat pumps for some homeowners'
Flip flop on carbon pricing could mean free heat pumps for some homeowners

When it comes to home insurance, it’s possible prices could remain stable, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations, said it’s still too early to determine how multiple cost pressures — including 2023’s wildfires, supply chain disruptions, increased material costs, labour shortage and more — will affect future premiums.

“The insurance companies do a good job trying to spread out the risks so that no single event in one area will automatically impact everyone’s premiums,” he explained. “And because there’s so many insurance companies, when you start having all different companies with different loss experiences, different claims histories and different investment incomes, all these factors mean that there’s just so many variables that it’s hard to definitively say one way or another.”

Story continues below advertisement

If costs do go up sharply, de Pruis encouraged customers to press for an explanation and “shop around.” There are more insurance options in B.C. today than ever, he added, which means policy buyers benefit from competition between insurers.

Click to play video: 'Focus BC: Getting rid of Vancouver Park Board, scrapping childcare wait list fees'
Focus BC: Getting rid of Vancouver Park Board, scrapping childcare wait list fees

Some B.C. parents will pay less for child care in 2024.

Beginning in April, the B.C. government is banning controversial waitlist fees for licensed child-care facilities that are part of its fee-reduction initiative. Parents have previously reported fees of between $25 and $500 to secure a spot in daycares amid hot competition for limited spaces.

In addition to the waitlist savings at subsidized facilities — more than 95 per cent of all facilities in the province — B.C. is expected to fold more spaces into its $10 a Day ChildCare BC program in 2024.

Story continues below advertisement

While the Ministry of Education and Child Care could not provide a specific number, at least 2,400 are expected to be added in the coming months to bring the total to 15,000 — a goal it had set for 2023, but not quite reached.

Click to play video: 'B.C. to abolish child care waitlist fees'
B.C. to abolish child care waitlist fees

Tentative hope for a ‘soft landing’

Last month, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said B.C.’s economic growth forecast for 2023 had dipped to one per cent, a slowdown predicted to continue in 2024, with growth projected at 0.7 per cent. The province’s deficit for 2023 was last pegged at $5.6 billion, down from $6.7 billion.

“Most of the forecasts out there are expecting — and now we’re starting to believe more and more — that we’ll have a soft landing,” Antunes said.

“That means that we’ll be able to slow economic activity, get inflation down without having a real deep recession or loss of jobs and loss of incomes.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Business News: Financial investment not consumption'
Business News: Financial investment not consumption

Nevertheless, the chief economist said risks remain, particularly when it comes to geopolitics.

If the war in the Middle East extends beyond its current boundaries, Antunes added, it completely changes the outlook for 2024 — including in B.C., which has an export-oriented economy.

“Imagine if we did have another supply shock like we had in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. We saw oil prices take off, energy and commodity and food prices take off,” he said.

“We really aren’t in a situation that the global economy or B.C.’s economy could handle another massive commodity price shock, even if it was just an energy price shock.”

Sponsored content