Northeast BC population growth slows, housing prices jump

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A report on housing demographic and affordability trends shows northeast British Columbi…

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A report on housing demographic and affordability trends shows northeast British Columbia’s population growth decrease while average home prices in 2020 increased.

The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia issued its annual report on Wednesday, “B.C. Check-up 2021 LIVE.” It suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is the main cause of the drop.

“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the flow of migrants across the world, and northeast B.C. was no exception,” said Ben Sander, partner at Sander Rose Bone Grindle. “While this is expected to be a one-off situation, the number of non-permanent residents, such as temporary foreign workers, arriving in the region fell sharply in 2020.”

The region saw a net gain of 209 out-of-country residents in 2020, but the drastic drop in job opportunities from COVID-19 saw 629 residents leave the northeast. More than a third of those residents were between 25 and 39-years-old.

The report suggests this could be a sign of trouble for the region, as it is known to have a relatively young population. While the provincial average age was 42.6 years, the average in the northeast was 36.6 in 2020.

“While 2020 was a challenging year, northeast B.C.’s economy has been improving, and fewer residents are leaving the region in recent years. The region’s population growth has also benefited from having a young population and the strongest natural growth rate in the province. In fact, the number of births exceeded mortalities by 508 in 2020.”

Despite the cost of housing being relatively affordable compared to other regions in British Columbia, the northeast has seen a rise in housing prices. The average price for a home in May 2021 was $272,053 in the South Peace River area, more than 32 per cent higher than the same month in 2020.

One issue is a lack of supply, with only 421 housing units built and an increase of 1,485 new residents to Fort St. John and Dawson Creek from 2017 to 2020.

“In just one year, the average price of a home sold increased by nearly a third. This has eroded some of the advantages in the region in terms of housing affordability compared to other parts of the province. This could push local residents out and discourage would-be migrants from coming, and highlights the need for greater housing supply.”

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