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Lack of affordable housing blamed for Vancouver Island’s low fertility rate

Capital Regional District says its a key factor in a fertility rate ranked as the lowest in Canada
Colin Plant, board chair of the Capital Regional District, is calling on the federal and provincial governments to work closely with local government to help improve the supply of affordable housing, which he cites as the largest reason for the region’s low fertility rate. (Black Press Media file photo)

The chair of the Capital Regional District said the CRD is carefully reviewing data that shows Greater Victoria with the lowest fertility rate in Canada to ensure programs and services adapt to changing demographics.

Colin Plant made that point after research from University of Western Ontario demographer Don Kerr, using requested census data, shows Victoria Census Metropolitan Area with the lowest fertility rate at 0.95.

Fertility rate describes the number of kids, on average, a woman could expect to have if behaviours observed in 2020 were to continue. Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops also find themselves among the 10 census areas with the lowest fertility rates in Canada, with Nanaimo and Vancouver ranking second and third respectively.

On a more personal political note, Plant said he has no doubt that price and lack of availability of housing in the region is concerning. “And now the data is showing the impact it has on families and their ability to expand,” he said. The region needs to work with all levels of government and the private sector to find a way to make housing more available and affordable.

RELATED: Greater Victoria delivering Canada’s lowest fertility rates

“I believe the largest reason we are seeing a decline in the birth rate here is that families are simply not able to afford housing to raise a family,” he said in calling on the federal and provincial governments to work with local governments and not view them as opposition.

“A multi-level approach is needed and it starts with a commitment to re-engage in helping to build affordable housing,” he said.

The region’s low fertility is part of an ultimately explainable paradox. Despite the low fertility, the region grew by eight per cent between 2016 and 2021, as it continues to attract internal and external migrants, driving up home prices along the way. As Kerr said, without those outsiders, the region would face significantly worse labour shortages. Yet the region’s attractiveness, as measured by rising real estate prices, is also discouraging family formation, along with other factors, including changing gender norms as well as educational and career expectations.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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