New population statistics show steady decline in West Vancouver

Click to play video: 'Housing costs forcing mass exodus from B.C. cities'
Housing costs forcing mass exodus from B.C. cities
New numbers from stats Canada show how unaffordable housing is changing the face of B.C. Cities with skyrocketing prices are facing an exodus to communities with more affordable homes. But as Ted Chernecki reports, it's not just the raw numbers that are concerning for some cities – Jan 25, 2017

New statistics released by the province are showing more people are leaving West Vancouver than moving into the well-heeled neighbourhood.

According to a B.C. Statistics report, the population in West Vancouver dropped by 2.1 per cent between 2015 and 2016 with just under 41,000 people now calling that community home.

The downturn in West Vancouver is the largest year-over-year decline of any B.C. municipality with at least 15,000 residents. West Vancouver has been in a slow and steady decline since 2011, which doesn’t follow the current trend of most municipalities across the province that have seen a steady increase in their populations.

Municipalities like Maple Ridge and Langley have seen steady growth with their populations increasing by 3.5 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively between 2015 and 2016.

Larger city centres had modest growth rates with Abbotsford and Vancouver at 0.9 per cent, Burnaby at 1.1 per cent and Surrey at 3.2 for the same time frame.

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What’s driving the move?

An aging population along with high housing prices are getting the majority of the blame; while young families are moving to places where they can afford to become homeowners.

The shift in numbers is troubling to West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith, who is concerned that young families are being priced out of the community.

“We want to keep an alive, vibrant community. We need a place for our employees to live in the district… with our house prices in West Van, it’s difficult to buy but they could rent ” Smith said.

Smith believes increasing the number of rental units in the community is key to keeping young people and families in West Vancouver but said there are barriers to that strategy — rentals are scarce in the municipality.

“We just approved a couple of weeks ago the first rental-only facility [with 40 units] in West Vancouver for 40 years,” he said.
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“So we need more rental accommodation so when our young people are graduating and want to stay in West Van, have a place to rent.”

The business community, Smith says, is also suffering from the lack of vibrancy.

“We don’t have the bars and restaurants to create any vibrancy in the community. It’s a very serious situation,” Smith explained.

“We’ve had such limited development in West Van, and no one wants to change the nature of the community.”

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