Hamilton-area population climbs to 812,000 as more leave big cities for 'smaller places'
5,375 new arrivals between 2020 and July 2021 takes city's population to 812,528, Statistics Canada says
Hamilton continues to be a city of choice for newcomers to Canada, as well as Canadians leaving bigger cities like Toronto, new data from Statistics Canada shows.
Earlier this month, the federal agency published new annual demographic estimates for subprovincial areas, with data up to July 2021.
According to the new data, 10,196 people took up residence in the Hamilton census metropolitan area — which includes Burlington and Grimsby — for the period 2018-2019 for a total population of 795,410. There were 11,743 new arrivals in 2019-2020 for a total population of 807,153. Between 2020 and July 2021, there have been 5,375 new arrivals with the area's population currently standing at 812,528.
Bruce Newbold, a professor of geography at McMaster University, said there are two big drivers of population growth in Hamilton.
"One is international migration, so people coming to Hamilton from outside of Canada, and Hamilton has long been a relatively important place for immigrant settlement," Newbold told CBC News.
"The other piece is that internal movement, and we've certainly, over the course of the pandemic, seen movement out of the big cities like Toronto and into smaller places like Hamilton."
Hamilton's proximity to Toronto and accessibility between both places are among the top reasons why people are choosing the city, Newbold said.
"Part of it is sort of a push down the Queen Elizabeth Way out of Toronto [where people are] able to find housing in the city," Newbold said.
"Hamilton [also] has great links into downtown Toronto with GO Transit, for example. So, that makes it a really accessible community."
While Hamilton's population growth is "in part driven by the pandemic," it started before 2020, Newbold said.
"You know, people in Toronto or the broader Toronto area of the GTA saw Hamilton as a good place to be, so it had already started to drive that population growth," he said.
It was just incredible the difference that you could get with your money in Hamilton.- Julie Smith, Hamilton resident since summer of 2021
Julie Smith and her partner, Megan Ardiel, first moved from Toronto to Mississauga before moving to Hamilton last summer.
Smith said the cost of housing was one of their primary reasons for moving to Hamilton.
"The housing costs are so wild in the GTA that you could not afford anything," Smith told CBC News. "Even small little condos were so expensive."
Smith, a teacher with Peel District School Board, said they started looking for a place in Burlington and Hamilton, which was also the halfway point between their places of work. Ardiel works with Niagara Region Public Health and had been commuting from the GTA for two years before they moved to Hamilton.
"We actually sold our condo in Mississauga, and that's paid for like the entire down payment of our house in Hamilton. It was just incredible the difference that you could get with your money in Hamilton," Smith said.
Ardiel said she likes the fact that Hamilton seems to have "different little downtown pockets" that are all unique from each other.
"It's definitely a huge bonus, and another big reason why we wanted to be here was just less crowds, less traffic, but you still kind of get the perks of that downtown city life at the same time," Ardiel told CBC News.
"I don't think we would have been able to afford the house that we wanted in Toronto. The prices are climbing here as well, but it was definitely more affordable than even Burlington, and we were looking there too.
"So, we got more space for less money here, and we had a few friends move into the area, so that kind of also helped make it feel like home. We usually look for diversity in neighbourhoods as well, which is really nice to see in Hamilton."
Population growth in St. Catharines-Niagara
The St. Catharines-Niagara area has also grown. For the period 2018-2019, a total of 5,572 people moved to the area, taking its population size to 433,955. In 2019-2020, there were 3,350 new residents for a total population of 437,305. In 2020-2021, 2,472 people moved to the area for a total of 439,777.
Two researchers at Ryerson University — Diana Petramala and Frank Clayton — noted in a recent blog that affordability issues, not the pandemic, drive population from Toronto and Peel.
According to the researchers, the gap between the net outflow of population from intraprovincial migration from the GTA and the Greater Golden Horseshoe suggests that more GTA residents are moving in search of more affordable lower density housing, but also that residents of the outer Golden Horseshoe are moving elsewhere in Ontario for the same reason.
Cities like Hamilton stand to benefit from new arrivals, Newbold said.
"Certainly movement into the city is a benefit. The growth enables or grows the tax base. It grows the number of workers," he said.
"If they have families or children, they're going to attend our schools and education system, and, you know, they're bringing their tax dollars ... and what we'd call human capital here, so it is a benefit for the city."
But Newbold said there is also a "downside" with population growth — namely "the housing crunch" in Hamilton.
"You know, we've seen housing prices really skyrocket in the city, and so with that continued population growth, we have additional work or continued pressure on housing and housing prices."