Fewer and fewer people are living in one of the wealthiest municipalities in British Columbia, according to the latest statistics by BC Statistics.
West Vancouver’s population fell by -2.1% between 2015 and 2016, from 41,814 to 40,923, as a continuation of a falling trend that began at least five years ago when the city had 42,923 residents. The overall decline in the number of residents during this period is -4.7%, including 2.1% the previous year alone.
In contrast, the City of North Vancouver’s population has grown by 5.8% during the same period from 49,396 in 2011 to 52,794 in 2016. But the same cannot be said for the District Municipality of North Vancouver as its population growth has been flat at just 0.6% or about 500 new residents.
North Shore municipal governments tend to be against new housing projects, and redevelopments both large and relatively minor bring out local opposition over fears of traffic congestion and ‘overcrowding’.
“I think the real barrier is in fact the municipal government’s view that there is too much traffic,” Thomas Davidoff, professor and executive director of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at the UBC Sauder School of Business, told Daily Hive. “If you listen to the City Council hearings anywhere in the North Shore, all they say is ‘there is too much traffic, we can’t build anymore apartments.’”
The District of West Vancouver recently approved its first rental project in 40 years, and even though it was a relatively small project – 40 units in two three- and four-storey buildings on an infill site – its proponents had to overcome militant NIMBY opposition.
An aging population mixed in with rising rents and property values due to a lack of new supply can be attributed to the overall decline in West Vancouver.
A handful of small municipalities in the region also saw population declines last year, but their decreases were mainly single-time occurrences for a year, not a general multi-year t rend unlike West Vancouver. White Rock saw a -1.1% dip in 2016 after three consecutive years of growth while Port Moody experienced a -1.5% decline in 2016 and a -0.4% dip in 2015. However, steady population growth in Port Moody is expected for the foreseeable future following the recent opening of the Evergreen extension of SkyTrain.
Comparatively, Vancouver and Burnaby grew by 0.9% and 1.1%, respectively, last year. Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Squamish experienced various growth rates between 3% and 3.5%.