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Can Metro Vancouver accommodate another one million people by 2050?

Immigration key factor in population growth, 30,000 to 40,000 people expected each year
Metro Vancouver planners predict another one million people will be living in an already congested and expensive region by 2050. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Here’s a sentence you probably didn’t think you’d read in this space: Fertility rates in Metro Vancouver have shifted by large margins over the past 20 years.

Here’s another one: Overall, fertility rates for younger women aged 15 to 30 are on the decline while rates for women aged 30 to 45 have seen a spike.

Interesting, right?

But what does this have to do with civic affairs, you ask?

Quite a bit, actually.

In fact, it’s key information that Metro Vancouver planners use when projecting growth for Vancouver and its surrounding municipalities.

And with growth, as many of us have seen who live in the region, comes the need for more everything—housing, roads, transportation options, schools, community centres and medication to remain calm while your personal space erodes.

That last bit was me being sarcastic, but I know there’s some truth to the anxiety many of us are feeling as a combination of growth, increased costs and 24/7 pressures of life continue to be a reality of living in a bustling region.

The topic, I’ve come to learn, is never far from a conversation with a friend or neighbour, some of whom are considering moving out of the region or downsizing to ease those pressures. The fact is the region is not getting smaller, with Metro Vancouver’s 2016 base population of 2.57 million anticipated to increase by about one million by the year 2050.

This is not news for civic affairs observers, but a report going before Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee today (Jan. 11) provides insight in to how growth is forecast in the region. The report, authored by senior regional planner Terry Hoff, was produced to inform many of the rookie politicians new to the Metro board about growth projections.

It’s an illuminating read.

Off the top, I mentioned fertility rates. On the other side of that information is the death rate.

The number of deaths will increase more rapidly than the number of births over the growth period, although the good news for seniors is they are living longer, with a 91-year-old woman having an 88 per cent chance of surviving one more year.

But, as the report points out, future immigration is the primary variable affecting population growth and related housing, employment and land use considerations in the region. About 300,000 immigrants, which includes refugees, arrive in Canada every year.

Metro Vancouver’s share of Canada’s immigrants is currently about 11 per cent and is assumed to marginally decrease as larger shares of immigrants settle in other areas of Canada and elsewhere within B.C.

Net immigration for Metro Vancouver is assumed to be in the 30,000 to 40,000 per year range through the projection period of an additional one million people living here by the year 2050.

Data trends show the City of Vancouver has accommodated the region’s largest share of recent immigrants over the past 20 years. Even so, the numbers declined over that period, from 36 per cent to 30 per cent.


Although the report doesn’t provide a definitive answer, the cost of housing and a low vacancy rate are factors. That is why the somewhat less expensive City of Surrey saw an increase in immigrants from 13 per cent to 22 per cent over that period. Neighbouring municipalities have also seen an uptick.

That’s just immigrants.

Overall, in the past 15 years, an average of 12,000 people per year moved from other parts of Canada to Metro and about 11,000 people per year moved out, with varying impacts for each municipality.

Data that tracks people moving in and out of Metro from other parts of B.C. tells another story. Through 2011 to 2016, there was a net out-flow of about 5,300 people per year from Metro to other areas of the province.

“The intra-provincial flow dynamics vary among municipalities and have a significant impact on growth for particular municipalities,” said the report, noting Vancouver, Surrey, Langley Township and Maple Ridge had the highest net out-flow to other areas of B.C.

Drilling down even further into the data, the report shows that 40,000 Metro residents changed municipalities between 2011 and 2016. Vancouver, with about 3,400 people per year leaving for another city, and Burnaby (1,600 per year) saw the biggest losses, whereas Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge saw the biggest gains.

If any of this stuff interests you, go to and check it out for yourself.


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