The rapidly increasing cost of housing in Greater Vancouver in recent years has resulted in many diocesan clergy not receiving the housing allowance to which they are entitled, Diocesan Council was told last month.

Ian Robertson, chair of the Clergy Compensation Working Group, said an initial survey found the collective shortfall may be as much as $250,000.

"We can't let this go because it's going to get worse," Robertson told the Council.

Diocesan policy states that parishes must either furnish priests with a rectory, or provide the equivalent of a fair market rental for a three-bedroom home in the area where their church is located.

Only about a dozen parishes still provide rectories, so most priests either rent or have taken out a mortgage.

Of about 80 priests surveyed, slightly more than 50 were getting less than market rental. Fifteen parishes were paying above market. Only ten were within $1,000 annually of the market rental rate.

Robertson emphasized that the figures were preliminary, and parish treasurers and wardens at the invitation of Bishop Michael Ingham were to meet September 29 on the matter.

Robertson said that that special circumstances may explain some of the figures, but it is likely that many parishes-responsible for paying the allowances-have not kept up the rapid rise in rental rates. It has been several years since a general survey had been done, he said.

Robertson also reported on a new clergy compensation model that his group is proposing. Currently, the diocese establishes a clergy minimum salary based upon years of experience.

The Clergy Compensation Working Group is proposing that several more factors go into setting salary levels, including whether the cleric is a rector or assistant, prior non-clerical experience, the size and number of congregations, specialized ministry tasks, education level, and a performance factor.

"Our belief is there will be more fairness and equity," said Robertson.

After a discussion, Diocesan Council authorized use of the new model in 2008 on a trial basis by up to 25 clergy. Bishop Ingham has invited clergy to a day at St. Mary's Kerrisdale on Oct. 10 to discuss their compensation.