The North Okanagan’s population has grown twice as fast as expected, according to new data released by Statistics Canada.
Between 2016 and 2021, the North Okanagan’s population grew at a rate of 1.7%, more than double what was expected.
According to a North Okanagan Regional District report based on historical population projections, the area is expected to grow at a rate of 0.84%.
The North Okanagan has seen its population grow from 84,344 in 2016 to 91,610 in 2021.
Electoral Area C, which covers an area of BX east of Swan Lake, was the fastest growing area in the Regional District at 3.3%. Lumby was second with a growth rate of 2.5%, followed by Vernon with a growth rate of 2.2%.
The report indicates that every community has grown in the North Okanagan, even in areas whose population is expected to decline.
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The additional influx of people has put considerable pressure on housing in the area.
The report said the North Okanagan was expected to grow by an average of 319 households per year.
However, on average, recent population growth sees an additional 1,450 individuals in the region each year.
The report says 3,245 homes were created between 2016 and 2021.
“These projections could not have anticipated the increased demand from those leaving urban centers due to the COVID pandemic and the ability to work from home,” the report said.
“Even without this additional growth, we would have been short even if it had been predicted correctly,” Area B Electoral Officer Bob Fleming told iNFOnews.ca. “This is a problem that is a work in progress that has no easy solutions.”
Fleming pointed to a new sewage treatment facility in the Swan Lake Corridor which is expected to be completed in 2024. Once complete, the new facility will allow properties to be subdivided and more housing to be added.
“Everyone is interested in trying to find a solution, but housing doesn’t happen overnight, there are a lot of steps and it’s hard to deal with the bulge,” he said.
The report also showed that the area is dominated by single-detached houses, however, census data shows that large households requiring more than two bedrooms are a minority.
“More than two-thirds of households in the urban center and the rest of the (regional district) have two people or fewer. Meanwhile, two-thirds of dwellings are single-family homes with three or more bedrooms,” the report said.
The report says there needs to be continued growth in the development of apartments, duplexes and townhouses.
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