West Vancouver: A Population Declining

While cities like Langley, Coquitlam, and Squamish have seen up to 25% in population growth since 2011, there’s one municipality that is experiencing the complete opposite: West Vancouver.

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As the fastest shrinking city in the Lower Mainland, West Van has garnered recent media attention for its steady decline in population. There’s been a variety of issues that are being blamed: foreign buyers, soaring house prices, and an aging population that won't move out to name a few. But is there a more underlying factor? According to Ryan Berlin, Senior Economist at Rennie, there is.  

“In certain pockets, factors like foreign ownership and affordability could be to blame. But to me, it’s a lot simpler. The diversity of housing keeps people within a market. So if you don’t build it, they won’t come,” said Berlin.

Data has shown there is a 90% correlation between the addition of homes and the addition of people. For cities that are slow to develop their residential and city centres, we are seeing a hollowing out of communities that aren’t changing. Without building the dwellings, they won’t yield the population.

West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith told The North Shore News, “The numbers are troubling and a sign that West Van needs to change its attitude towards new development.”

He went on to share he has major concerns about losing young families and the ability to hire young employees at the district and school districts. In fact, the last policeman he swore in lives in Chilliwack, citing this as “a real problem”.

In the past 40 years, the West Vancouver council has only approved one all-rental project. Most of this stems from the attitude of preserving their current communities, making them resistant to change and development.

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For the projects that do get approved, the majority of units do not cater to all demographics and incomes, particularly millennials or young families. This makes it impossible for policeman, firefighters, teachers, and nurses to live and work in West Van -- jobs that are vital for the area.

As Mayor Smith noted, without housing, employment will become a huge concern for small businesses in that area. Do you think there will be a change in the rate of development over the next five years to reverse this issue? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting @naiopvancouver.

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