Metro Vancouver to have 4 million residents by the mid-2040s

Metro Vancouver to have 4 million residents by the mid-2040s
Metro Vancouver to have 4 million residents by the mid-2040s

Metro Vancouver’s population is expected to reach four million by the mid-2040s, an increase of 200,000 people, five years earlier than previously thought.

New models show that the region will grow by 50,000 people each year until the mid-2040s, after which the region will have four million inhabitants.

The numbers, detailed in a report by Metro Vancouver’s regional planning commission, will be driven entirely by immigration starting in 2035, as natural growth from new births falls below replacement level. An earlier estimate had the region’s population expected to reach 3.8 million by 2051, a slower growth rate that would require half a million new homes and jobs.

Jonathan Cote, Metro Vancouver’s deputy director of regional planning and housing development, said adding another 15,000 residents a year is “really a big number” over time.

“Our forecasts show that we are moving faster than in the past,” he said.

“And that will undoubtedly put pressure on our infrastructure, and even our social infrastructure, to adapt and accommodate.”

Metro Vancouver receives about 11 percent of the new immigrants Canada receives each year. That is expected to result in 55,000 net new immigrants per year under the medium and most likely growth scenario — a projection that is almost 50 percent higher than the historical average of 37,500 net new immigrants per year.

Under the low-growth scenario, immigration is assumed to decline to its historical average, while under the high-growth scenario, the number of new immigrants will rise to 70,000 per year by 2051, doubling the historical average.

Estimated and projected regional net immigrants to Metro Vancouver over time. Metro Vancouver

The projections are based on regional land capacity, approved development plans, new census data, increased federal immigration targets and new policies for nonpermanent residents. The resulting population estimates are used to estimate future demand for land, housing, jobs and utilities at a time when the regional body is investing billions of dollars in new infrastructure projects to keep pace with growth.

“These policy changes, which are beyond the control of Metro Vancouver and the member states, are having a significant impact on regional population projections and creating a new demographic paradigm for the region,” added Sinisa Vukucevic, program manager of Regional Planning Analytics, in the report.

“The region’s demographic future will not simply be a continuation of previous trends and growth expectations.”

About 472,000 immigrants arrived in Canada in 2023. Another 700,000 net non-permanent residents arrived between July 2022 and July 2023, though the federal government plans to reduce this class of residents to five per cent over the next three years. The latter group has been one of the main drivers of the population recovery in the post-COVID-19 era, Metro staff say.

High, medium and low growth scenarios each assume different immigration and fertility rates, with higher immigration typically resulting in a higher share of child and youth services, the report said. At the high end, immigration is expected to result in a higher share of children and younger families.

Migration from other provinces to Metro Vancouver will continue to make a “small contribution” to overall population growth. Within the province, the flow of migrants is clearly pulling away from British Columbia’s largest metropolitan area.

In the decade between 2012 and 2022, migration from all of British Columbia accounted for just 0.3 percent of the region’s growth. That’s far lower than the one percent (25,000 people) who left the region for another part of the province each year.

A Metro analysis found that seniors tend to move to other parts of the province, while working-age residents moved to surrounding communities such as Mission, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

Cote said the new numbers won’t derail Metro Vancouver’s infrastructure spending plans for decades to come. But as the century progresses, shifts in who governs at the federal level could upend immigration policy and complicate how the regional body ensures there’s enough water and sewer capacity for all its residents.

“Will this faster growth become the new norm? We expect so,” Cote said.