April 13, 2018 4:52 pm

ANALYSIS: How a city study went wrong on Kingston’s population growth

Bill Hutchins comments on the low number of new residents who came to Kingston between 2011 and 2016.

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Kingston’s population growth is flat, according to the recent national census – which found the city’s population gained only 0.35 per cent from 2011 to 2016. According to Statistics Canada, Kingston’s population had reached 161,175 in 2016, but only gained 435 people in the five years since the previous census.

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What is even harder to fathom is how a city-funded study in 2013 got it so wrong.

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That study projected the population to grow by 5.2 per cent, which would amount to 6,460 new residents in that same five-year period.

City officials are now trying to rationalize how their lofty projections measure up to the real stagnant population numbers.

City council is launching an $80,000 study to take a closer look at the discrepancies between their previous projections and the actual numbers.

This time, they’re going to examine other factors such as the transient student population, which may not have been captured in the census.

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They’re also going to take a closer look at Kingston’s neighbours to see if the city’s growth is spilling over into the surrounding communities.

If this is the case, it’s strangely akin to what happened in Kingston before the amalgamation with Pittsburgh Township 20 years ago. Is the city being hemmed in by fast-growing suburbs with limited ways to grow its population and bring in more revenues?

I’m not suggesting Kingston should amalgamate with its neighbours, like the forced municipal marriage from two decades ago.

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But if most of the growth is happening just outside the city’s borders, perhaps councillors need to rethink some of their priorities about affordable taxes, utilities and the growing pressure the apparent commuting trend is placing on border roads like Bath Road, Division Street and Gardiners Road.

Some people may welcome the news that Kingston’s population growth has peaked.

But it could have a downside if the residential tax base isn’t growing enough to help finance future projects.

Population signs don’t say it, but the current stats suggest they should read, “Welcome to Kingston: a nice place to work, but I don’t want to live here.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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