A LIT­TLE TOO QUIET

De­spite an in­crease in to­tal pop­u­la­tion, city’s prici­est neigh­bour­hoods lost hun­dreds of res­i­dents be­tween 2011 and 2016

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - NEWS - Jen St. De­nis

Are some of Van­cou­ver’s quiet, tree-lined sin­gle-fam­ily neigh­bour­hoods a lit­tle too quiet?

In con­trast to Van­cou­ver’s over­all pop­u­la­tion growth of 4.6 per cent be­tween 2011 and 2016, a clus­ter of neigh­bour­hoods on the city’s pricy West­side lost hun­dreds of peo­ple in the same pe­riod. Ar­bu­tus Ridge, Ker­ris­dale, Shaugh­nessy and Dun­bar/ South­lands all lost pop­u­la­tion, a phe­nom­e­non re­searchers say is wor­thy of more study.

“Pop­u­la­tion drop is al­ways kind of jar­ring,” said Jens von Bergmann, a data an­a­lyst who has been map­ping Cana­dian cen­sus data (the lat­est pop­u­la­tion num­bers came out on Feb. 8). “We know that over­all pop­u­la­tion went up quite a bit.”

Von Bergmann’s map­ping tool Cen­susMap­per.ca also shows that dur­ing the same pe­riod, the num­ber of un­oc­cu­pied homes in the same West­side neigh­bour­hoods went up, as well as in other var­i­ous pock­ets across the city.

There are three fac­tors at play, and it’s un­clear which ones are most driv­ing pop­u­la­tion de­cline in these neigh­bour­hoods, said Nathanael Lauster, a so­ci­ol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

Pop­u­la­tion may be de­clin­ing be­cause very few new homes are be­ing added to a neigh­bour­hood — that’s cer­tainly the case in the West­side neigh­bour­hoods, von Bergmann said.

While laneway homes and ad­di­tional base­ment suites have been pop­u­lar in East Van­cou­ver’s sin­gle-fam­ily neigh­bour­hoods, they’ve been much rarer on the West­side, in part be­cause the very high price of West­side homes means the “mort­gage­helper” eco­nom­ics of adding a suite don’t re­ally work.

“The peo­ple that need a mort­gage helper, they don’t buy there,” von Bergmann said.

Cana­dian house­holds have been get­ting smaller over the past 30 years as cou­ples have fewer chil­dren and are less likely to live with ex­tended fam­ily. As the boomers age, their chil­dren may leave home or their spouse may pass away, leav­ing fewer peo­ple liv­ing in a house.

An in­crease in the num­ber of un­oc­cu­pied homes can also cause pop­u­la­tion to de­cline, said von Bergmann and Lauster.

“Any place that is see­ing an uptick in sec­ond homes will have a downtick in pop­u­la­tion in terms of peo­ple liv­ing in those ar­eas,” Lauster said.

The pop­u­la­tion de­cline isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a con­cern, es­pe­cially if it’s just a mat­ter of el­derly peo­ple “ag­ing in place,” Lauster said.

“I do think a lot of these neigh­bour­hoods where we haven’t seen new build­ing are heav­ily pro­tected by (sin­gle fam­ily) zon­ing leg­is­la­tion, which pre­vents lower in­come and mod­er­ate in­come house­holds mov­ing into these neigh­bour­hoods.”

The story won’t re­ally be com­plete un­til Sta­tis­tics Canada makes more data from the 2016 Cen­sus avail­able, von Bergmann said. For in­stance, the next re­lease in May will in­clude in­for­ma­tion about age, sex and type of dwelling.

“Be­tween 2006 and 2011 we saw a drop in chil­dren in the City of Van­cou­ver, across all age groups, which I don’t think has been ap­pre­ci­ated enough,” he said. “It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see whether that’s con­tin­ued.”

Any place that is see­ing an uptick in sec­ond homes will have a downtick in pop­u­la­tion. Nathanael Lauster

JEN ST. DE­NIS METRO

A home in Shaugh­nessy, one of sev­eral Van­cou­ver West­side neigh­bour­hoods.

COUR­TESY JENS VON BERGMANN/CEN­SUSMAP­PER.CA

This map re­veals which neigh­bour­hoods gained and lost pop­u­la­tion. Ma­genta neigh­bour­hoods lost the most, while dark green gained the most.

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