City councilors in Vancouver have approved a "living wage" of $20.64 per hour for all city staff.

Under the new plan, all direct employees and subcontractors will be paid at or above the agreed upon living wage for Metro Vancouver.

The Living Wage for Families Campaign defines a living wage as an hourly amount a two-parent family with two children needs to earn to cover basic expenses, including food, clothing, rental housing, child care, transportation and a small savings to cover illness or emergencies. It does not include additional expenses like education costs, recreation, holidays or debt repayment.

The living wage calculation varies by region: It is $20.64 per hour in Vancouver, $16.28 in the Fraser Valley and $20.02 in Victoria.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says although the city's economic growth is leading the nation, "affordability challenges" mean many hard-working families are still behind.

"A living wage will ensure that families of all backgrounds can afford to live and work in Vancouver, making our neighbourhoods healthier and stronger," he said in a statement.

It is estimated that the plan will cost the city an extra $560,000 annually, and close to $1-million if other employees such as police department, fire and rescue services and Vancouver Public Library staff are included.

City staff confirmed it would support the Vancouver Public Library and police board to pursue its own living wage certification, the council said in a statement.

Parksville and Port Coquitlam have also recently passed living wage policies, joining New Westminster, Quesnel and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

Deanna Ogle, the campaign organizer for the Living Wage for Families group, says there is momentum building around the living wage movement in B.C.

"Implementing a living wage is a small cost for a big impact in the lives of low-wage workers and contractors who will breathe a little easier at the end of the month," she said in a statement.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says working poverty is a "huge" problem in Metro Vancouver, and the region has the second highest working poverty rate among large Canadian cities, only slightly lower than Greater Toronto.

"Simply put, in our great city, tens of thousands of families who work for low wages do not have the time to enjoy Vancouver’s amenities," said Seth Klein, the group's B.C. director.

"Changing this reality requires a host of policy initiatives at all levels of government. But without question, having a major city government adopt a living wage policy is an important piece of the mix.”

The United Way of the Lower Mainland estimates 100,000 people are living below the poverty line in the region, including many families that have full-time jobs.