British Columbia

Is Surrey growing too fast?

The Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities says rapid growth is at least partly responsible for the city’s gun violence problem.
Surrey has seen 32 shootings since the beginning of 2016. Four have happened in the past four days. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Rapid growth is at least partly responsible for the city's gun violence problem, according to The Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities.

Skyrocketing house prices in Metro Vancouver are driving young families to Surrey in search of affordable homes.

According to the city of Surrey, roughly 800 people move to Surrey every month and about a quarter of the population is younger than 19.

SASC Coordinator Darlene Bowyer says the city isn't able to keep up with the infrastructure demands of its young population.

Darlene Bowyer with Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities says it's time for Surrey to scale back on development. (CBC)

"Perhaps they need to slow down growth and get a grip on what's happening in this city and find solutions to the problems," Bowyer said.

"There are a lot of good youth programs in Surrey but obviously the need is greater than what the services are."

There have been more than 30 shootings in Surrey since the beginning of the year and the RCMP blames the majority of them on young, low-level drug dealers.

No more neighbourhoods

There are major public safety challenges associated with being one of the fastest growing cities in the province according to University of the Fraser Valley criminologist Irwin Cohen.

UFV criminologist Irwin Cohen says a city's rapid growth can create public safety challenges. (University of the Fraser Valley)

"One of the things which insulates and protects communities from crime is collective efficacy," Cohen said.

"It's this idea that I know my neighbours, I know the people around me and I can rely on them because I have shared values. When you have a very fast growing population, that takes time to build."

Growth has its benefits

Mayor Linda Hepner acknowledges rapid growth makes it a challenge to keep up with infrastructure demands but she says the city is not growing too fast.

"When you see that there are young people looking for places to live, and the unaffordability of some of the regions in the Lower Mainland, we are providing housing for young people," she said.

"I don't think you can say you're growing too fast when people are trying to find a place to settle in the Lower Mainland and we're providing the housing that they're looking for."

Mayor Linda Hepner says she is doing everything in her power to address gun violence in Surrey. (Jason Proctor/CBC)

Hepner says new developments in the city aren't sitting vacant, so there is clearly a need for housing.

"Many of our jobs in Surrey are related to the building industry," Hepner said.

"Meeting demand is how I would define it."