CPABC: Vancouver Island Population Growth Strong In 2022

August 16, 2023

Woody Hayes, FCPA, FCA

VANCOUVER ISLAND – According to BC Check-Up: Live, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on demographic and affordability trends across the province, Vancouver Island and Coast (excluding the Capital Regional District) added 6,647 new residents in 2022, bringing the total population to 467,530 residents.

“Similar to the rest of the province, the pace of population growth has picked up across Vancouver Island over the past year,” said Woody Hayes, FCPA, FCA. “This has primarily been from attracting residents from other regions in the province, but also from other provinces and countries.”

The region’s population grew by 6.5 per cent between 2017 and 2022, averaging nearly 6,000 new residents per year over the period. In 2022, the region gained a net of 4,688 new residents from other regions across the province, 2,473 from other provinces, and 1,997 residents from other countries. However, natural growth (births minus mortalities) has become increasingly negative, reducing the region’s population by 2,511.

“With the option for some people to work remotely, and Vancouver Island’s beautiful environment and recreation opportunities, we’ve been able to attract residents from all over the country and world,” continued Hayes. “Given our region’s aging demographics, as more people reach retirement, the labour shortages businesses are already facing will only worsen if we do not attract enough new residents.”

Vancouver Island’s average age was 45.9 in 2022, well above the 42.8 provincial average, and up by 1.9 years compared to 2012. Over a quarter (25.6 per cent) of the region’s population is aged 65 or older, compared to about a fifth (20.1 per cent) in 2012.

“While housing prices have declined in the past year due to high interest rates, housing affordability continues to be a major challenge,” noted Hayes. “This challenge will only be augmented over the longer-term given our population growth unless the region begins to increase the level of housing development.”

Across Vancouver Island, the benchmark price for a single-family home was $744,400 in June 2023, down by 8.4 per cent since June 2022, but up 53.7 per cent from June 2019. The benchmark price for an apartment in June 2023 was $387,600, a decline of 5.9% per cent since June 2022, but an increase of 52.9 per cent from June 2019.

Since 2017, nearly 36,000 new residents came to Vancouver Island and Coast (excluding the CRD), compared to 14,059 residential units completed over the same period. There were 2,612 housing units completed in 2022, up slightly from the 2,472 completed in 2021 and above the annual average of 2,244 from 2017 to 2020.

“Although there has been some increase in housing development in recent years, there has been insufficient growth in housing supply to keep pace with our population,” concluded Hayes. “To enhance affordability and promote economic growth, governments at all levels need to remove roadblocks for further housing development and focus on policies that boost the income of local residents.”

Of note is the initiative undertaken by the B.C. government to provide targets, advisors, and ultimately assuming powers to rezone and provide development permits. One of the considerations here is, to some extent, making access to infrastructure funding being tied to meeting these targets. There are 20 Island communities included on the list in the Order in Council.

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