- Kelowna Votes
Kelowna has found the fountain of youth.
Long known for being a retirement haven, the city has turned the corner to have a more diverse mix of all ages.
"We are changing," said Krista Mallory, manager of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.
"The region is much different than it was 10 years ago. More and more families are moving here and youth are staying here. And that's great because Kelowna needs youth to power our workforce and keep our economy going."
The commission recently repackaged and released the Kelowna Metropolitan Area (essentially the Central Okanagan) 'age highlights' from the 2021 federal census to bring attention to the region's changing demographics.
The Kelowna Metropolitan Area is the fastest growing in Canada with a 14% increase over the past five years to 222,165.
Of that population, 30,610, or 13.8%, are age newborn to 14; 141,395, or 63.6%, are age 15 to 64; and 50,155, or 22.6%, are age 65 and over.
"In the past five years there was a 20% increase in the number of people age 65-plus," pointed out Mallory.
"That's slightly over the national rate of increase of 18.3%, so Kelowna still has a lot of retirees and seniors."
But the increases in youth (newborn to 14 years of age) and adults (the so-called student and working age demo of those age 15 to 64) was much more dramatic.
"The Central Okanagan's youth population is up 14%, which is three times the national average, and the number of adults is up 12.6%, which is over five times the national average," said Mallory.
"We're outpacing most other regions when it comes to growing our younger demographics. It's rapid growth."
Rapid growth can be both good and bad.
It's good in that Kelowna has the vibrant economy and enviable lifestyle and standard of living lures retirees, families, young professionals and college and university students to move here to live, work, play, study and invest.
The city's economy is highly developed with industries and employers from a cross-section of new and traditional sectors from high tech, information technology, aerospace, professional services and advanced manufacturing to construction, real estate, forestry, agriculture and wine, health care and government.
"People are moving here because there is work, they are relocating here with a remote job or they are starting their own business," said Mallory.
More and more high school graduates are staying in the Valley to go to Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan rather than post-secondary institutions in other parts of the province or country.
And the local college and university are also attracting students from outside the region for our world-class courses and programs.
Plus, more and more of those students, be they from the Okanagan or beyond, decide to stay here and build careers and families rather than moving away to do so.
This brings us to Kelowna's housing unaffordability.
The surge in people moving here for jobs, lifestyle and education creates competition for homes and apartments and drives up house prices and rents.
That means many of the people moving here are from more expensive markets such as Toronto, Vancouver and internationally who can afford Kelowna and may even consider it a deal.
"Anecdotally, we're hearing that some people aren't moving here because it is unaffordable and that only adds to our labour shortage," said Mallory.
So, it's a catch-22.
Kelowna has a labour shortage and needs more and more working age people to fuel the economy, yet our unaffordability is stymying the very people we require.
"Housing unaffordability is a multifaceted challenge," said Mallory.
"We need to build way more housing in an effort to meet demand and make housing more affordable."
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