North Okanagan population on the rise

Census figures show more people are calling the North Okanagan home

More people are calling the North Okanagan home, and the region is increasingly urbanized.

Census figures show the Regional District of North Okanagan’s population was 81,237 in 2011, a 5.1 per cent hike from 77,301 in 2006. All municipalities saw growth while electoral areas declined.

“It’s consistent with what we anticipated,” said Anthony Kittel, RDNO regional growth strategy co-ordinator, of the overall figures.

Vernon continues to lead the pack, with a population of 38,150, a six per cent increase from 2006.

“It’s a positive,” said Kevin Poole, the city’s economic development manager, in terms of ensuring a stable base for home sales and retailers.

But Poole is awaiting more specific data such as age demographics.

“Are we increasing the seniors population or are we moving towards the goal of attracting families and creating jobs?” he said.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky says an expanded population is essential for the city to be viable.

“The things you do in terms of budgeting depend on growth. If you don’t grow, you have to look at how to fund services,” he said.

More people, though, also places pressure on water, sewer and roads. There is also a heightened demand for housing and health care.

The largest census spike was in Armstrong — 13.5 per cent. It now has a population of 4,815.

“Planned growth is good,” said Mayor Chris Pieper.

“It allows you to pay for your recreational facilities and public works projects.”

Pieper, though, says actions have also been taken to address the negative aspect of more residents, such as approving suites to ensure housing is affordable.

While municipalities are larger, rural areas haven’t done as well.

There was essentially no population change in rural Lumby and Cherryville while the other three electoral areas experienced decreases.

“People are leaving for jobs. We’ve lost all of our forestry jobs,” said Eugene Foisy, Cherryville director.

Foisy believes some people may move to his area for the lifestyle and lower property values, but he is concerned little growth will impact services.

“If we lose the school, that will really drain our community.”

The biggest drop was six per cent in BX-Swan Lake.

“The erosion of the tax base will create issues for how services are delivered,” said director Bob Fleming, who points to demographics as the main reason for the decrease.

“As the population ages, children move out,” he said, adding that the Agricultural Land Reserve also makes it difficult for developments to proceed.



JURISDICTION                           2011                    2006                PERCENT CHANGE

RDNO                                         81,237                  77,301                          +5.1

Vernon                                      38,150                  35,979                          +6.0

Coldstream                              10,314                    9,471                          +8.9

Lumby                                          1,731                    1,634                          +5.9

Spallumcheen                           5,055                    4,960                          +1.9

Armstrong                                  4,815                    4,241                          +13.5

Enderby                                       2,932                    2,828                          +3.7

Splatsin First Nation                  390                         353                         +10.5

Okanagan Indian Band         2,604                     2,192                         +18.8

BX-Swan Lake (Area B)          3,046                     3,211                           -5.1

BX-Silver Star (Area C)            3,872                    3,912                           -1.0

Rural Lumby (Area D)             2,848                    2,837                          +0.4

Cherryville (Area E)                    939                        934                          +0.5

Rural Enderby (Area F)          3,938                     4,091                           -3.7