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With Toronto Island population declining, young couples wanted

If you join the waiting list as soon as possible, you won't be that young when your name is called.

Ward's Island in winter.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Ward's Island in winter.

If you’re a young couple, Toronto Island wants you.

That’s the message from Coun. Pam McConnell who’s concerned about the island’s aging and declining population.

“There’s a demographic change going on,” she said. “The tradition of the Island has always been families, but now we’re seeing more seniors.”

Young couples, McConnell said, are actively being encouraged to join the waiting list for homes — which are some of the few remaining bastions of affordable living in Toronto.

Census numbers released last week illustrate her concerns. The Island saw a 5.6 per cent population decline from 2011 to 2016, leaving only 620 residents.

The mainland population, meanwhile, has continued to explode over the past five years. Cityplace and South Core — two of the hottest neighbourhoods for young families and young professionals — grew by 97.2 per cent and 38.6 per cent, respectively. The GTA’s population increased by 5.8 per cent, overall.

Pushing reset on the island’s demographics would mean a lot of changes.

Even if young couples join the waiting list for homes they won’t be young when space is offered.

A 2009 analysis by the local publication Torontoist estimated it takes 35 years between joining the waiting list — which is opened up every two or three years — and being offered a house. That’s in part because so few people move away and because there is a federally regulated cap on the number of Island dwellings.

For any of that to change, a provincial agreement — which protects the homes that are there and prevents additional development — would have to be reopened.

And the terms, reached in 1993 in a bid to protect both the land and the cottage-in-the-city lifestyle of the people living there, are near and dear to lots of hearts.

Until that agreement is renegotiated — a politically fraught proposition in itself — the trends proving themselves now appear likely to continue.

McConnell isn’t holding out much hope for progress, noting its difficult for 23 councillors to agree on anything related to the island.

“Perhaps at some time people will be more reasonable,” she said.

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