CPABC: Southwest B.C. population growth slowest in past decade, housing prices putting pressure on residents

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 28, 2022 (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 continued to slow in 2021.

“The immigration downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic carried into 2021, with Southwest B.C.’s population growth about half the level seen in 2019 and the lowest growth rate in the past decade,” said Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, president and CEO of CPABC. “This was due to a significant decline in international immigration coming to the region, especially non-permanent residents, such as students.”

The 31,645 new residents added between July 1 2020 to July 1 2021 was over 26,000 lower than the record number of new residents the region welcomed in 2019. In 2021, there was a net outflow of about 4,800 international non-permanent residents (NPR), compared to a net inflow of over 24,000 in 2019. The region also saw a net outflow of over 9,400 residents to other parts of the province, and about half of those who left were aged 39 or under.

Southwest BC’s population growth over the period primarily came as a result of people moving to the region from other provinces (+14,763 net new residents) and an increase in international permanent residents (+25,149). The region did see an uptick in the population growth rate in the latter half of 2021.

“The slowdown in population growth in 2020 and 2021 is troubling, particularly as NPRs are typically younger individuals,” continued Mathison. “Thankfully, we have seen the trend shift in the latter half of 2021 and into 2022 as population growth rebounded. This is vital to help offset rising labour shortages and an aging population.”

The region’s average age increased from 39.6 in 2011 to 41.6 in 2021, slightly below the provincial average of 42.8. The proportion of those 55 and older was nearly a third of the population (30.5 per cent) in 2021, up by 4.8 percentage points from 2011.

From 2011 to 2021, Southwest B.C.’s population increased by over 500,000 residents, while the total number of residential housing units completed over the period was almost 240,000 units. In 2021, there were a total of 31,645 units completed, nearly 83 per cent of which were attached units, such as condos, apartments, and townhomes.

“While housing completes were strong compared to population growth in 2021, that isn’t expected to last as population growth returns to pre-pandemic levels,” continued Mathison. “There has also been underinvestment in mid-sized units, even as demand has been stronger for that type of property. This dynamic helped push housing prices to new records,” said Mathison.

In May 2022, the average price of a single-family home across the Lower Mainland reached $1.88 million, up by 19.2 per cent compared to May 2021 and 49.4 per cent from May 2020. The average price for an apartment reached $720,900, up 17.7 per cent compared to May 2021 and 28.4 per cent from May 2020.

“Housing prices have far outpaced income growth over the past decade. And with housing prices reaching record highs in 2022, affordability has further deteriorated, which will push residents away and deter immigrants,” concluded Mathison. “Given how our region relies on immigration to diversify, grow, and prosper, it is critical that we focus on policies that boost supply and improve affordability.”

Learn more about the BC Check-Up: Live report.

About CPA British Columbia
The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 38,000 CPA members and 6,000 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.