Winnipeg area will hit 1 million population mark by 2035, report says

Mayor Brian Bowman says the Winnipeg and its neighbouring bedroom communities are on track to reach the one million population mark by 2035.

City and 11 bedroom communities projected to hit mark 2 years slower than 2012 projection

Mayor Brian Bowman says Winnipeg and its bedroom communities are on track to reach the one million population mark by 2035. (Wendy Buelow / CBC)

Mayor Brian Bowman says Winnipeg and its neighbouring bedroom communities are on track to reach the one million population mark by 2035.

Data in the 2016 City of Winnipeg Population, Housing, and Economic Forecast, released Wednesday, prompted Bowman to call for better city planning and a path to new revenues.

"We need to be thinking and planning for the future," Bowman said.

The 31-page report says Winnipeg is expected to grow by 8,200 people per year.

The report, which is based on information from Statistics Canada, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Conference Board of Canada, also estimates Winnipeg's census metropolitan area will exceed 1,055,000 by 2040.

But that's two years longer than the city estimated four years ago it would take to reach that mark.

The City of Winnipeg itself is expected to grow from 718,400 to 922,600 people by 2040.

The metropolitan area includes 10 municipalities and one First Nation that have 50 per cent or more of the labour force working in Winnipeg.

The report predicts the demand for housing will remain steady, with an increase of 100,000 more households or 32 per cent over the next 25 years creating demand for approximately 4,000 new homes a year.

Immigration will continue to bring the most people to Winnipeg, the report says. Interprovincial migration, which has historically resulted in population loss, is projected to improve for Manitoba over the next 25 years, it says.

Growth tax needed: Bowman

Bowman told reporters he wants the City of Winnipeg to join other major Canadian cities in charging developers a growth fee, but he's committed to keeping property tax increases linked to inflation. That puts the city in a position where it can't expand services to new housing developments without additional revenue.

"We need to ask ourselves — how are we going to pay for that growth and who is going to pay for it? Is it going to be every existing property owner, which I obviously don't support, or is it going to be those who choose to build?" Bowman said.

Bowman has committed to find a way to bring in growth fees without changing the City of Winnipeg Charter.

Such a change would require approval and legislative change by the province of Manitoba. Premier Brian Pallister has said repeatedly his government would not agree to any changes that would include new taxes.

The City of Winnipeg has hired a consultant to figure out a way to enact growth fees on developers without asking the province for changes to the charter. The report from the consultant is expected to be completed in approximately a month.

Growth pays for growth: home builders

But the president of the Manitoba Home Builders Association said property taxes combined with permits developers must get and agreements to provide infrastructure are enough to cover the costs of new neighbourhoods.

"The cost-benefit studies that we have and have shared say new development pays its own way," said Mike Moore.

He acknowledged his organization's data doesn't match the city's information.

"I guess we need to sit down and compare our studies with each other and see if there is something wrong with either or both," Moore said.

Moore also said the 4,000 annual housing starts would be a decrease from three years ago, and new fees could damage the industry and housing prices.

"The market isn't bullish or robust right now to take that kind of a hit," Moore said.

Consultant's report on the way

While development fees could drive up the cost of building a home by thousands of dollars, they're needed to keep up with the rate of growth, Bowman said.

"Every other municipality in Manitoba has a form of growth fee," he said.

Bowman said he's confident there will be a way to get the city the revenue it needs to expand services such as transit, community clubs, snow clearing and road maintenance in new housing developments.

The projected continued strong population growth should give new home builders confidence there will be a strong market in Winnipeg despite additional fees, he said.

Ritchot, Taché, Springfield, East and  West St. Paul, Rosser, St. Francois Xavier, Headingley, St. Clements, MacDonald and the Brokenhead First Nation are all part of the Winnipeg census metropolitan area.

Development tax for new homes proposed for Winnipeg

9 years ago
Duration 2:11
It could cost thousands of dollars more to build new homes in Winnipeg if city council approves a new development tax, but at least one councillor already opposes the idea.

With files by Sean Kavanagh