At a recent public meeting I heard a familiar assertion from a pair of former Smithers councillors: the Bulkley Valley is experiencing slow and steady population decline. MLA John Rustad recently spoke along the same lines about our rural areas, and in each case the speaker pointed to a historical pattern. (The former councillors referenced the mid-1980s.) It’s true, this pattern has held in recent decades.
Despite this, I firmly believe that the Bulkley Valley could soon see a period of unprecedented growth due to recent developments that don’t fit the ‘historical norm’. This would have a huge impact on what happens in the Bulkley Valley in the next 20 years. I hope that we embrace the opportunity and actively plan for and pursue it.
In 1985 the average house price in Greater Vancouver was $233,365 in 2017 dollars. If we talk about 29 time periods, historical analysis holds: in 1965, the average detached home price in Greater Vancouver was $100,600 in today’s dollars. In 2005, $482,388. The house values were slightly more than doubling every 20 years. And they were remaining somewhat affordable.
Now, fast forward to 2017. The average Greater Vancouver detached house price is $1,617,300. It has more than tripled in just 12 years! And it’s continuing to climb despite the measures that have been taken to control it. The same is happening in places like Victoria and Kelowna. These urban areas have all experienced population growth of between 6.5 and 8.6 per cent over five years, taking in over 200,000 new residents combined. They don’t call it a housing crisis for nothing! The Bulkley Valley offers an obvious appeal to those with the unattainable dream of home ownership in those urban areas.
The second key change — internet and cell service improvements which increase residential appeal and make it feasible for a broad range of companies to conduct their business from here. Airport improvements are also happening. Additionally, the success of the Prince Rupert container port offers a huge untapped opportunity for development of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in our region.
Any survey of area residents will show a huge number who chose the Valley lifestyle, as opposed to coming and staying primarily for work or family. It is a recreational, cultural and social destination. In this way it stands out when compared to most rural B.C. communities.
I believe we should be planning and preparing for growth, because eventually the opportunities in our Valley will be discovered. And I believe it’s in our best interests to be the driver of this growth.
– Darcy Repen is the mayor of Telkwa.