The Castlegar area has been seeing an increase in population in recent years and the province projects that the increase will continue into the future.
BCStats estimates that 20 years from now the population in the Castlegar area will have increased by about 18.6 per cent. That translates to about 2,600 new residents and a population of 16,589 by 2038.
The area’s population has already increased by over 10 per cent since 2006, when the population was 12,677.
These projections are based on local health service areas. The Castlegar service area includes Ootischenia, Robson, Thrums and Glade.
Castlegar’s projected growth is higher than any other Kootenay region.
For the next 20 years, growth for the Kootenays as a whole is projected to be 4.5 per cent.
For the same period, growth for the Nelson area (including Slocan, Winlaw and Salmo) is expected be 4.8 per cent, for the Trail area (including Rossland, Fruitvale and Montrose) it is two per cent and Creston is looking at 5.4 per cent.
Projections for some regions during that time show a population in decline. The Kootenay Lake area (Ainsworth, Kaslo, Argenta, Riondel) is expected to lose 6.5 per cent of its population. For the Arrow Lakes area (Silverton, New Denver, Nakusp), the decrease is 16 per cent and Grand Forks is looking at a loss of 6.9 per cent.
According to Castlegar and District economic development manager Mark Laver, the region is also poised for economic growth.
Castlegar has several things going for it including room to grow and reasonable housing prices, he said.
Castlegar’s median home price of $295,000 is significantly lower than the provincial average of $719,946 and 72 per cent lower than Vancouver’s median home price.
Castlegar’s household income numbers are also on the rise. Average household income in 2006 was $49,866, in 2010 it was $54,279, and in 2016 it was $68,800.
Laver says those figures reflect the number of good-paying jobs that are available in the area.
He also said that even though Castlegar’s median household income is five per cent below the provincial average, the city’s housing costs are 30 per cent below the provincial average, which means that area residents have more disposable income in their pockets.
That extra disposable income is reflected in the lifestyle many people in the area are able to enjoy and the “toys” they are able to buy, such as boats and recreational vehicles.
Housing starts within city limits have also been strong in the last five years. In 2013, there were 17 new houses built, 2014 saw 22. There were 24 new housing starts in 2015 and 29 in 2016, followed by a jump to 40 in 2017.
As of September, there were 18 new housing projects on the books for this year at a value of more than $5 million.
Housing starts in nearby RDCK Area J, which includes Ootischenia and Robson, have also been strong. Area J saw 19 new projects last year valued at over $6 million, up from nine in 2014.
RDCK Area I, which includes Thrums, Tarrys and Pass Creek, showed a big jump in housing starts in 2017. After an average of just one or two for a number of years, there were 11 new starts last year with a value of $3 million.
The City of Castlegar has also counted $11 million in new commercial and industrial projects in the last five years. Add to that about $1.7 million in Area J and $2 million in Area I and you see a regional economy that is slowly, but steadily, growing.