British Columbia

Metro Vancouver projected to add more than 1 million residents by 2050, according to planners

Updated projections predict growth despite a pandemic dip in immigration numbers

Posted: May 01, 2021
Last Updated: May 01, 2021

Pedestrians in Vancouver on Dec. 17, 2019. Metro Vancouver planners anticipate the region will grow by more than one million people by 2050. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Despite limited population growth since the pandemic, Metro Vancouver planners project the region will have more than one million additional residents by 2050. 

According to new data shared with the Metro Vancouver board on Friday, planners project there will be 3.8 million people living in Metro Vancouver in the next 30 years — an average growth of 35,000 people per year.

Sean Galloway, the director of regional planning for Metro Vancouver, says the estimate is on par with previous projections, which only went to 2040. 

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There has been a lot of discussion that the pandemic might have a long-term impact on regional growth, Galloway says, but the forecast didn't come as a shock to him. 

"I'm not surprised that the region is growing, it's always been an exciting place to be," Galloway said. 

'Everything pointed to Vancouver'

Melody Haskell can attest to that sentiment. She moved here in November 2019 from Indiana to be with her wife. 

Haskell says they got married in 2018 and debated whether to move to B.C. or the U.S. But all it took was one visit to the West Coast for that decision to be locked in. 

"I almost just wanted to stay after my original trip here. It was so beautiful," she said.

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Melody Lennox-Haskell moved to Vancouver from Indiana to be with her wife. She says she was drawn to the region because of its beauty, job market and tolerance. (Melody Lennox-Haskell)

As a plumbing apprentice, Haskell learned that B.C. has a lot to offer for certifications and work. And as a trans woman, she felt Metro Vancouver was far more tolerant than what she had experienced in the U.S. 

"Everything pointed to Vancouver," she said.

Pandemic immigration dip

According to the region's research from the 2016 Census, eight per cent of the people living in the census metropolitan area of Vancouver came from abroad.

Another three per cent moved from other parts of Canada, and one per cent moved from other parts of B.C. and the Fraser Valley. 

The net number of immigrants to the region in 2019/2020 was 31,394.

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According to Statistics Canada data collected by Metro Vancouver, about eight per cent of the region's growth comes from immigrants. (Metro Vancouver)

Immigration numbers across the country dipped by more than 50 per cent during the pandemic, Metro Vancouver planners say, including in Vancouver.

But the federal government plans to increase the number of immigrants in the next three years, and Galloway says the region's growth projections have taken that into account. 

Defining the 'welcome basket'

The projections also suggests the number of homes and jobs that will need to be created to support that population growth. 

Galloway says the purpose of the projections is to help municipalities to plan for housing, transportation and other services. 

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University's City Program, says the devil will be in the details in terms of creating the right number and type of homes that will accommodate students, families and other household compositions from different income brackets.

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"As we welcome this 1.1 million new neighbours, what are the components of the welcome basket?" Yan said.  

According to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation data collected by Metro Vancouver planners, there were 22,371 housing starts in the region in 2020. That same data says each home in the region houses 2.4 people.

Yan says another key consideration for regional officials will be not just the number of jobs but the quality of jobs.

There are some high-paying jobs in the region, Yan says, but there are many more in lower-paying sectors like retail and hospitality. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maryse Zeidler
@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.