Statistics Canada has confirmed what most people can see with their own eyes: Langford has become a much more crowded place in the past decade.
Statscan released the first batch of data from its 2011 census on Wednesday. Langford has far outstripped any other municipality in the Capital Region and the province in terms of population and housing growth.
In the past five years, Langford’s population grew by about 6,800 people, or 30 per cent. Over the past 10 years it’s grown by more than 10,000 residents.
For housing, the city added 3,600 new dwellings since 2006, a 39.5 per cent jump. It has added 5,500 dwellings in the past 10 years.
“West Shore urban centres are growing seven times faster than the downtown core,” observed Dan Spinner, CEO of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce. “This latest data confirms what we instinctively knew. This confirms the West Shore is the economic engine for the Greater Victoria area.”
Langford, which has marketed itself as “business friendly,” has seen rapid housing growth at large developments such as Westhills, Bear Mountain, and Kettle Creek and along Happy Valley Road, but also dozens of smaller condominium and townhouse projects throughout the city.
Conversely, Victoria, which grew at 2.7 per cent, has less available land for residential development, other than infill condo towers. “Victoria is hardly growing, Saanich even less so,” Spinner said. “The only planned substantial growth is on the West Shore.
“The 2011 numbers confirm we are not a bedroom community anymore. There are lots of jobs out here.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young isn’t surprised that Langford is B.C.’s fastest growing city, but he admits it’s not clear the rate of growth will continue at the same pace.
Langford is working with the business and development community to develop and retain higher paying jobs in the city, he said. That, along with relatively affordable houses, low taxes and better infrastructure.
“We’ve got some of the best recreation in the region now. We’ve made a big effort to make this a community where people want to live. It’s a matter of keeping things affordable,” Young said. “That translates into jobs, good jobs Langford needs.”
Sooke, with a population hike of 18 per cent came in second in terms of Capital Region residential growth. Highlands was third with a 11.4 per cent growth spurt to 2,120 residents.
The West Shore on the whole grew at a much greater rate than other CRD municipalities, such as Victoria and Saanich, but those two municipalities combined still remain home to more than 55 per cent of the region’s residents.
The West Shore’s total population has hit 61,625, or about 18 per cent of the CRD.
Colwood’s population increased almost 10 per cent to 16,093 people living in 6,395 dwellings. View Royal, with seven per cent growth, has 9,381 residents in 4,138 homes.
Metchosin still hasn’t broken the 5,000 mark and saw a trickle of new residents in the past five years — a net total of eight, for a grand total of 4,803. That reverses the district’s population decrease seen in 2006.
Despite the anemic population growth, the district has experienced a relative boom in housing — 86 more dwellings in the past five years, and undoubtedly some are secondary suites and still-illegal detached suites.
Legalizing detached suites has provoked furious debate in Metchosin, as many resident fear the extra housing paves the way for too many new residents, which would erode the rural lifestyle.
The November referendum on legalizing and regulating detached suites passed by a bare 2.2 per cent, highlighting the near even division in the community.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said the numbers point to a stable population, precisely what Metchosin wants.
“For us it’s good,” Ranns said. “We’ve got no debt, lots of money in the bank and low taxes. It shows what we are doing works for us. You don’t need to have growth to have a sustainable community.”
He did say the 89-dwelling increase in the district was surprising, considering the low population growth. It’s possible the units are unoccupied secondary suites.
Staying below the 5,000 person mark also allows Metchosin to avoid West Shore RCMP policing costs to rise from 50 to 70 per cent of the total bill. Ranns noted that the district has a $1 million fund for that eventuality.
“We are fully prepared to go over (5,000),” he said. “There wouldn’t have been any tax increase.”
Census 2011 West Shore population stats (2011 vs. 2006 and percent change):
Langford 29,228; 22,459; 30.1
Highlands 2,120; 1,903; 11.4
Colwood 16,093; 14,687; 9.6
View Royal 9,381; 8,768; 7.0
Metchosin 4,803; 4,795; 0.2
Census 2011 West Shore housing stats (2011 vs. 2006 and percent change):
Langford 12,731; 9,125; 39.5
View Royal 4,138; 3,512; 17.8
Highlands 830; 730; 13.7
Colwood 6,395; 5,770; 10.8
Metchosin 1,898; 1,812; 4.7