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Vancouver Island demographics skewing younger, report finds

Click to play video: 'Fewer retirees moving to Vancouver Island in the past 5 years' Fewer retirees moving to Vancouver Island in the past 5 years
Vancouver Island has long been known as a destination for retirement but it seems to be losing that status. A new report shows people who are moving there are younger. As Kylie Stanton reports, one reason for that is retirees simply can't afford to live there – Apr 21, 2022

Vancouver Island has long held a reputation as a destination for retirees, but British Columbia’s red hot real estate market appears to be changing that.

A new report from the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) shows a steady influx of new residents to the island, and a demographic shift skewing younger.

The group’s latest State of the Island Economic report found that more than 89,000 people moved to Vancouver Island between 2014 and 2021, more than half of whom relocated from elsewhere in B.C.

Read more: Low housing supply a problem across B.C., real estate association says

Over that same period, the percentage of people aged 50 and up moving to the island fell from 59 per cent to 35 per cent.

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“We are seeing a change in the age demographic that is attracted to the island, being able to work remotely has encouraged people to leave some larger centres and seek lifestyle options,” VIEA president George Hanson told Global News.

“Even though our prices have increased significantly, our prices are still low compared to some larger centres.”

But like elsewhere in B.C., those prices are going up, particularly as the island becomes a hot destination amid limited supply.

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Hanson said there were just 28,000 new units constructed on Vancouver Island in the same reporting period.

Ian Thompson, a Realtor at Remax of Nanaimo said the demographic shift in his community has been noticeable, with the city itself reporting a boost in residents aged 25 to 45.

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Thompson said the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift to working remotely has been a part of that equation, along with people cashing out of the Lower Mainland market.

“We’re also seeing people that are selling for big numbers in the Lower Mainland, and coming over to the island and really looking everywhere from Duncan all the way up to Cape Scott – up and down the island, because Victoria is very, very expensive,” he said.

Read more: B.C.’s real estate market expected to ‘remain vigorous’ in 2022: BCREA

That pressure has driven prices in Nanaimo up by 62 per cent in the last two years he said, which has, in turn, increased interest — and prices — in smaller communities on the north island.

The average price of a detached home in the Capital Regional District currently sits at more than $1.4 million, compared to nearly $888,000 in Nanaimo and about $722,000 in Campbell River.

About half of the island’s newcomers settled in the Victoria area according to VIEA, while 18,000 moved to the Nanaimo region, 8,500 to the Comox region and 8,000 to the Cowichan Valley.

Island-wide, the average price of a detached home has climbed from $630,000 in March 2021 to $851,000 in March 2022, according to the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board.

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“I don’t think it’s sustainable to think we can keep going up 62 per cent (in Nanaimo) every two years, that doesn’t make sense. I think we’re going to see a plateau of prices,” Thompson said.

“I don’t think we’re going to see big declines, however, even with the increase of interest rates. And that’s just supply and demand. There’s still more and more people who want to come here.”

Hanson, too, predicted the trend was here to stay, as more and more people look to the island for affordability and lifestyle.

“The takeaway is that the island has been discovered,” he said.

“If you can figure out a way to make a living sufficient to support yourself and your family and you can find housing you like in a community you want to be in, who doesn’t want to be here?”

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– with files from Global News’ Kylie Stanton

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