CPABC: Despite COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson-Okanagan seeing rapid population and housing price growth

KELOWNA, 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, the Thompson-Okanagan region added 8,462 new residents in 2020, bringing the total population to 609,320 residents.

“While population growth slowed in 2020 due to a decline in international immigration, the moderation was not as hard felt by our region as compared to other parts of the province,” said Karen Christiansen, FCPA, FCA, partner at MNP LLP in Kelowna. “Further, the Thompson-Okanagan has seen the fastest population growth in B.C. over the past five years, as many from across the province and outside the province relocated to the region.”

Between 2016 and 2020, the region’s population increased by 7.1 per cent as a result of a growing number of residents coming from other parts of Canada. In 2020, Thompson-Okanagan gained a total of 8,155 new residents from other B.C. regions and provinces, a majority of which were 25 to 54 years old.

“Enticed by the robust economy and excellent living conditions in our region, we have been able to increasingly attract residents from other parts of B.C. and Canada,” continued Christiansen. “This is critical as natural growth is trending downward as our population continues to age. In fact, Kelowna has the second lowest fertility rate in Canada, just behind Victoria. However, inadequate housing supply and rising prices have become a growing challenge.”

In the past five years, the number of residents increased by 53,113 people while only 19,746 residential housing units were completed. In 2020, a total of 4,134 housing units were completed. While down from 5,676 units in 2019, it is still well above the average of 2,525 annual completes between 2011 and 2018.

“It is encouraging to see that housing construction activity has picked up in recent years, but it is not keeping pace with population growth,” noted Christiansen. “Developments have also been increasingly smaller, attached units such as condos. In 2020, 70 per cent of the units completed were attached compared to 43 per cent in 2016. This demand-supply mismatch is pushing housing prices up across the region, especially for larger homes.”

Across the Okanagan Valley, the average single-family home sold for $756,200 in April 2021, up by nearly a third (29.4 per cent) compared to April 2020. The average price for an apartment sold in April 2021 was $407,000, up by 12.6 per cent over April 2020.

“Housing prices have been rising rapidly due to the low interest rate environment, strong demand for more space, and lack of supply,” concluded Christiansen. “The region needs to attract residents, especially young families who are being priced out of homeownership in the Lower Mainland. Going forward, it will be critical to encourage greater housing developments to help improve accessibility and affordability for both local and future residents.”

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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.