High cost of living has Burnaby businesses struggling to retain employees: survey

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WATCH: Burnaby's business community is the latest to claim that Metro Vancouver's high cost of housing is making it difficult to attract workers. Aaron McArthur reports – Aug 30, 2016

Clio’s Burnaby office has the kind of amenities – an open kitchen, a yoga studio – you might expect to see at a tech firm.

“What we try to do at Clio is offer a really, great work environment so that people are comfortable here,” Clio’s Eric Bin said. “We have an amazing office, lots of perks. We bring in breakfast for our team, free lunch on Fridays.”

For managers at the legal services software firm, such perks are a way to retain employees in a job market where the cost of living is always top of mind.

READ MORE: Vancouver’s foreign buyer tax may harm tech industry

A recent survey by the Burnaby Board of Trade found nearly half of the businesses surveyed cited cost of living for employees as one of their biggest barriers to expansion.

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“It’s an issue that goes beyond just being a housing issue,” Paul Holden of the Burnaby Board of Trade said. “It’s an issue that across the region is impacting business.”

According to the provincial government, the issue of affordability is being offset by the rapid pace of economic growth. Government officials said the province leads the nation in job creation and in the number of people moving to the province to fill those jobs.

READ MORE: B.C. puts focus on tech sector into hyperdrive

At Clio, filling vacant jobs isn’t as difficult as retaining qualified people who may be lured to more affordable cities.

“The astronomical cost of living in the Lower Mainland has become completely decoupled from compensation,” Bin said. “Housing prices have doubled or tripled over the last few years and we just can’t compete with that.”

– With files from Aaron McArthur