Milton and other Toronto 'outskirts' growing fast, census data shows

While some established communities close to Toronto, are barely growing, areas farther away like Milton, King, Whitchurch-Stouffville, Brampton and Caledon experienced upwards of 10 per cent growth over the 2011 to 2016 period.

Milton, King, Whitchurch-Stouffville all experienced high growth rates from 2011 to 2016

Last summer, teacher Aron Katz and his family moved from Thornhill to East Gwillimbury. (Aron Katz)

Last summer, Aron Katz moved from Thornhill to East Gwillimbury, a town roughly 45 minutes north.

It's a hike to downtown Toronto, but Katz, 32, said the city is still just an hour-long GO train ride away — and his family was able to swap a "postage stamp" lot for half an acre.

"We have a larger backyard with mature trees … In our last house we could see into the windows of all the neighbours around us," he said.

Katz isn't alone in putting down roots far from Toronto's downtown core, and 2016 census data shows many of those distant communities have booming population growth rates.

Released on Wednesday, the latest census numbers highlight which spots in the Toronto census metropolitan area — a region stretching from Oakville and Milton in the west, Pickering and Ajax in the east, and way up north to New Tecumseh, Mono, and Bradford — are experiencing significant growth.

Toronto area's population growth

A Statistics Canada graph from the 2016 census showing population growth in communities included in Toronto's census metropolitan area. (Statistics Canada/2016 census data)

While nearby Mississauga is barely growing, areas further away like Milton, King, Whitchurch-Stouffville, Brampton and Caledon experienced upwards of 10 per cent growth over the 2011 to 2016 period.

That's more than double the 4.5 per cent growth rate of the actual city of Toronto during that time.

Urban planner Sean Hertel said the distant areas experiencing this high population increase aren't surprising. "The growth areas — that's all brand new land," he said.

"We're seeing continued growth in what we might refer to as the suburbs, or the rest of the region, that contributes quite a bit in terms of population," noted Shauna Brail, director of the urban studies program at the University of Toronto.

Milton population jumped by 30%

Milton, for instance, jumped from a population of roughly 84,000 in 2011 to more than 111,000 in 2016 — an increase of more than 30 per cent — making it one of the fastest-growing spots in the country.

King and Whitchurch-Stouffville also both increased their population sizes by more than 20 per cent.

Brail said the ongoing suburban growth in these "outskirts" will lead to the development of necessary services, which could mean anything from new highways to school systems in the years ahead.

Richmond Hill resident Isaac Elfaks recalled a time when hailing a cab or finding an Uber ride was tricky in his suburban community, but said things are changing fast.

"I can get around Richmond Hill, and the downtown core, much easier than I could a couple years ago," he said.

Downtown Toronto still a hot-spot

While the suburbs are growing, there are also plenty of spots within already-dense Toronto experiencing population growth too.

In a map of census tracts developed by Statistics Canada, it's clear that a significant chunk of the downtown core — particularly the condo-heavy stretch along the waterfront — is a hot spot for population growth.

There's still plenty of population growth happening in the downtown core, too. (CBC)

And, unsurprisingly, Toronto is also growing overall, with the entire census metropolitan area hitting a population of nearly six million in 2016.

Andre Lebel, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada, said the area also outpaced the national growth rate over the last five years.


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