CPABC: COVID-19 slowed Southwest B.C. population growth while housing prices reached new highs

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- According to BC Check-Up: Live, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on demographic and affordability trends across the province, Southwest B.C.’s population growth declined by over a third in 2020 to only 34,823 new residents, bringing the total to 3.15 million.

“Strengthened by a rising number of out-of-province migrants, Southwest B.C. experienced strong population growth in the lead up to the pandemic,” said Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, president and CEO of CPABC. “In 2020, far fewer international students and workers came to the region due to mobility restrictions and education institutions pivoting online.”

Southwest B.C.’s population growth in 2020 was almost 20,000 less than the record of 54,813 new residents in 2019. This was primarily due to a decline of more than 25,000 non-permanent resident (NPR) net migrants, such as international students and workers, in 2020 compared to 2019. The region also saw over 10,000 people move to other parts of the province, with more than half between the ages 25 and 54.

“Southwest B.C. has been a prime destination for many from other provinces and internationally,” continued Mathison. “As the region continues to age, it will be increasingly important to welcome migrants to bolster our population. However, the lack of housing supply and rapidly escalating prices is pushing former residents out and is a major deterrent to move to the region.”

The average age increased from 40.7 in 2016 to 41.3 in 2020, slightly below the provincial average of 42.6. The proportion of those 55 and older was nearly a third of the population (30.2 per cent) in 2020, up by 1.7 percentage points from 2016.

From 2010 to 2020, Southwest B.C.’s population increased by over 505,000 residents, while the total number of residential housing units completed over the period was just under 230,000 units. In 2020, there were a total of 26,812 units completed, over 80 per cent of which were attached units, such as condos, apartments, and townhomes.

“While the region has seen strong levels of housing development in recent years, it trails our growing population. Southwest B.C. has seen older, larger housing units replaced with a greater number of smaller units such as condos, however, the lack of supply and strong demand for larger units is putting immense pressure on housing affordability, particularly for young families,” said Mathison.

In April 2021, the average price of a single-family home across the Lower Mainland reached $1.57 million, up by nearly a quarter (24.9 per cent) compared to April 2020. In contrast, the average price for an apartment reached $694,200, a gain of 6.6 per cent over April 2020.

“Southwest B.C. is home to a strong, diverse, and inclusive economy that has attracted a growing number of residents. But as housing prices reach new record highs, home ownership is becoming less of a reality and is pushing residents away,” concluded Mathison. “For the wellbeing of our region, it will be critical to encourage greater housing development to make it more affordable and accessible.”

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About CPA British Columbia
The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 37,000 CPA members and 5,500 CPA candidates and students. CPABC carries out its primary mission to protect the public by enforcing the highest professional and ethical standards and contributing to the advancement of public policy. CPAs are recognized internationally for bringing superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, and leadership to organizations.


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