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The growing pains of a growing central Okanagan

Click to play video: 'Kelowna and surrounding area experiencing growing pains as it expands.' Kelowna and surrounding area experiencing growing pains as it expands.
Kelowna and surrounding area experiencing growing pains as it expands – Oct 25, 2017

A new report by the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission shows Kelowna and surrounding region continues to experience tremendous growth.

“We are the fastest growing region in B.C., the 6th-fastest in Canada,” commission director Corie Griffiths said.

The third-quarter report shows increases in 10 categories, from population to housing starts.

“Not only do the numbers reflect a significant amount of growth, you look at airport passenger traffic or enrolment at UBC Okanagan or Okanagan College but there is this energy about this region,” Griffiths said.

The report shows that the central Okanagan’s population increased by 8.4 per cent between 2011 and 2016 and now sits at 194,882.

Housing starts in the first nine months of 2017 were up by 90 per cent compared to the same time last year.

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Building permit values are up by 36 per cent, the labour force by seven per cent and business licenses have spiked 15 per cent in the last four years.

With such rapid growth comes challenges, including finding a place to live.

The area has a rental vacancy rate below one per cent.

Affordability is also a widespread concern. The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $1,000 and the median price for a single-family home in Kelowna sits at $700,000.

Kelowna’s mayor said council is working hard to accommodate the growth.

“We are certainly ready for this growth but it won’t come without its challenges,” Colin Basran said.

“I would say the two most significant challenges are social issues and I would include housing affordability and accessibility as a part of that and mobility. How do we get around our community is becoming more and more of a challenge so I would say those are the two that council is putting the most effort into.”

Click here to read the full report by the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.

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