News / Vancouver

Construction, home prices drive growth in Surrey, Langley: planner

Region’s suburbs explode while small towns stall. First Census data since 2011 show boom south of the Fraser.

The Vancouver skyline seen form Burnaby Heights on Jan. 26.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro Order this photo

The Vancouver skyline seen form Burnaby Heights on Jan. 26.

Metro Vancouver’s population growth varied wildly across the region’s cities — spiking in Surrey and Langley while plummeting in Vancouver’s West Side, according to Census data released Wednesday.

The first instalment of in-depth census results since 2011 – when former Prime Minister Stephen Harper scrapped the mandatory long-form census – were described by Canada’s chief statistician as “probably the most successful census since 1666” because of a 98.4 per cent turnout.

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Mathematician and computer scientist Jens von Bergmann, co-creator of the Census Mapper website, said the data shows people are flocking east to high-construction cities such as Surrey, which saw roughly 17,000 new dwellings since 2011.

“Surrey has had a massive number of dwellings added,” he explained. “These things, to a large extent, really just are driven by the construction.

“If you added new dwellings in central Vancouver, they would fill up. [Without] more dwelling units, just that alone would lead to a population decline.”

Simon Fraser University’s City Program director Andy Yan told Metro that in addition to the more than 25,000 empty homes in Vancouver the census revealed, it also highlights how residents may have reacted to housing prices skyrocket while their salaries stagnated.

“The high-growth areas in the region are actually offering housing that’s much more related to local incomes,” he suggested. “Yes they have more density, but they’re also affordable relative to how much you can actually earn there.

“There is some good news here: to the extent that some of these growth areas are along transit routes … it’s a test the success of the regional plan — to the extent we’re sticking to it."

However, Yan said that while the first flood of Statistics Canada’s latest census is a relief, it’s what’s done with the data that truly counts. The lack of a mandatory long-form census left planners with shaky comparative data for the past eight years.

“There’s so much to pore through and angles to look at,” Yan said. “It’s really a means of informing public policy that we were so hungry for after what happened in 2011.

“But now it’s really up to us to use the data, and to make sure it is user-friendly and available to the public. The big challenge for our leaders is to use it to inform and create effective policies.”

BOOM VS BUST

Metro Vancouver ‘burbs bursting at the seams with new residents; smaller cities stalled. That’s a Cole’s notes version of the 2016 census.

At one extreme of Metro’s cities: Langley district, bursting with 12.6 per cent growth. It’s followed by Surrey, at 10.6 per cent; Coquitlam and City of North Vancouver tied with a 9.8-point lift.

But a few cities stalled out. West Vancouver shrunk 0.5 per cent, while Port Moody, North Vancouver district and Delta all had under three-point gains.

And Vancouver? In the middle: 4.6 per cent more people.

IF YOU BUILD IT…

Analysts told Metro the region’s fastest growing cities were those with more dwellings.

Surrey saw 17,117 new dwellings, rising 11 per cent since 2011. Vancouver gained more occupied households (19,343) for a seven per cent lift.

Region-wide, dewllings rose 7.8 per cent to nearly one million households. That’s more than the B.C. average of 6.6 per cent more households, and greater still than the 5.6 per cent national average.

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