Niverville now Manitoba's fastest-growing municipality, 2021 census says
West St. Paul and Neepawa also among growth leaders; Thompson declining fastest
After living in Winnipeg for nearly 20 years, Kevin Yakabowski moved to the commuter town of Niverville to get more bang for his housing buck and reap the benefits of a more cohesive community.
"I know all my neighbours. Everybody around here has got my garage door code. We're all really close and I'm going to say sometimes in the city, I didn't even know half my neighbours when I lived there," said Yakabowski, who moved 25 kilometres south of Winnipeg after weighing the pros and cons of life in a bedroom community.
The 2021 census reveals he's not alone. Since 2016, Niverville's population grew from 4,610 people to 5,947, a population gain of 29 per cent, Statistics Canada says.
That makes Niverville the fastest-growing municipality in Manitoba.
Mayor Myron Dyck said this is a blessing and a challenge.
"On the one hand, you're very excited to see that people are interested in being in a community," he said. "On the other hand, growth comes with its challenges, such as infrastructure."
The population and dwelling data from the 2021 census, announced Wednesday morning, help determine how much money governments allocate to communities based on needs for everything from housing to policing.
The population counts will be followed later this year by Statistics Canada releases on demographic breakdowns, income, languages and citizenship.
After Niverville, the fastest-growing municipalities in Manitoba are West St. Paul (25 per cent), Neepawa (23 per cent), Morden (15 per cent) and Macdonald (13 per cent).
Of those communities, only Neepawa and Morden are outside the Winnipeg census metropolitan area, which includes the provincial capital and nearby municipalities where at least half the working-age population commutes to the city to work and go to school.
The Winnipeg CMA grew almost seven per cent from 2016 to 2021, from 783,099 to 834,678 people.
Winnipeg itself, without its neighbours, grew six per cent over five years, from 705,244 people to 749,607.
Growth in the city and other communities could have been even higher, but the pandemic severely restricted international travel and curtailed immigration to Manitoba by roughly 50 per cent in 2020 alone.
Some communities shrank outright from 2016 to 2021.
The city of Thompson, in northern Manitoba, declined at the fastest rate of any municipality in the province.
Over the past five years, Thompson's population dropped five per cent, from 13,678 to 13,035.
The pandemic may also have been a factor in the flight of some Winnipeg residents to smaller communities, as working from home made living outside the city more feasible for some families.
This may have helped fuel some of Niverville's growth.
"It's a shorter commute than driving from Transcona to St. James," said Wes Dowse, a Niverville real estate agent.
The cost of housing is another draw, he said, pegging the price of a new three-bedroom home in Niverville at roughly $100,000 cheaper than a similar build in a popular Winnipeg neighbourhood.
"Out here, you can buy a brand-new house and not compete for it, where you have to pay over the market," Dowse said.
"It makes it very attractive for people to make the commute out to here, live in a brand new home and get to feel the small community kind of life."
This rapid residential growth has created planning challenges for Niverville.
Mayor Dyck, a real-estate appraiser by profession, said the town has worked hard to attract more businesses to ensure the property-tax base can keep up with the demands for expensive services such as water and sewage treatment.
"When you have population growth like this, your 20-year plan becomes a 10-year plan, so then it's about how do you cost that out and how do you make all that work?" he said.
Over the past two years, a new high school, a new arena and a Tim Hortons opened in Niverville. Yakabowski said he was most excited about the coffee shop, even though the amenities of St. Vital are only 25 minutes away and other bedroom communities are expanding as well.
"The south end of the city is growing so fast. I don't think it will ever reach Niverville, but it's coming this way," he said.