Population analysis and projections for qathet Regional District from 2016 to 2041 were introduced at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday, July 9, indicating a modest population growth over the 25-year time frame.
The Arlington Group, consultants who performed the analysis, indicated a 19 per cent growth in the regional district from 2016 to 2041, as compared to the provincial forecast of 30 per cent over the same time span.
“The study gave us something concrete to show there is a trend for some modest growth,” said regional district manager of planning services Laura Roddan.
She said the report outlined several implications for future planning. These included:
· Gradual population growth in the electoral areas will be a stabilizing force
· The older workforce and seniors will be the dominant demographic
· Population diversity will continue, electoral areas will not become exclusive retirement areas
· Schools will continue to be based in Powell River, except Texada Elementary, which faces declining enrolment, and Kelly Creek Community School, with busing to serve the population base under the age of 20 in the electoral areas
· Home-based business will increase in importance as many older than 65 will continue to maintain an attachment to the workforce
· The importance of health-based services located in the regional district and commercial services in general will increase as the median age of the population increases.
Roddan indicated the need for this work was triggered by a lack of up-to-date population analysis and projections for the electoral areas. Previous population analyses and projects are dated, according to Roddan.
Anecdotally, there was a sense among a number of people Roddan interfaces with that there are people moving into the area, including more young families. She said since the 2016 census, there has been some growth in the regional district during the past couple of years.
“That quantifies what we have been hearing anecdotally in the real estate community, the development community and from people in the education system,” said Roddan. “It seems like there is a turnaround happening and this study showed that we are seeing a trend for in-migration, and that is a positive.”
Previous population studies had shown a decrease.
Roddan said the document gives the regional district a good foundation for the official community plan process on Texada Island and any future initiatives from planning.
The document will also help with the regional social planning function that has been initiated with the hiring of a social planner, funded by the regional district, City of Powell River and Tla’amin Nation.
Roddan said the report outlines that the latest BC Stats projections indicate increased in-migration, which has been sufficiently large to counteract the slow population decline within the resident population. Factors for in-migration include affordable housing prices compared to other areas of the province, the mild climate, the wide array of outdoor recreational opportunities, and the availability of regional services, including health care. Another factor is the technology changes which have enabled home-based businesses. That refers to the fibre optic network, which stretches to Tla’amin Nation and Myrtle Point, in electoral areas A and B.
“It has definitely assisted the ability for entrepreneurs and home-based businesses to operate in the regional district,” said Roddan.
The report will soon be available on the qathet Regional District website at powellriverrd.bc.ca, or people can contact Roddan for a copy.