The West Kootenay’s biggest city now has a population of over 11,000.
Statistics Canada’s first release of data from the 2021 Census on Wednesday shows Nelson has grown to a population of 11,106, an increase of 534 residents from the 2016 Census.
The area immediately around Nelson in the Regional District of Central Kootenay also saw growth.
The population of Area F, on Nelson’s North Shore, grew 3.9 per cent to 4,116. Area E, which wraps south around Nelson from Blewett to Balfour, also rose 3.3 per cent to 3,897 residents.
Nelson’s Mayor John Dooley said he wasn’t surprised to see the city’s population has increased. He believes tourism initiatives, municipal policies such as the introduction of laneway housing, and a long-running economic development between the city and regional district have made an impact.
“I think it’s actually paid off from that perspective. Nelson’s a desirable place to live anywhere in town, or around our area.”
Construction has also boomed in Nelson. Last year the city issued a record 231 building permits, while new affordable housing buildings such as the 39-unit Herridge Place and the 43-unit Hall Street Place opened.
There’s also more on the way.
This year Nelson CARES is expected to complete the 47-unit Lakeside Place, which provides affordable housing for seniors and adults with disabilities. A five-storey building with 46 residential units is also under construction on Victoria Street, as is the redevelopment of the former Nelson Daily News building at 266 Baker St. into a multi-purpose property that will feature 10 residential units.
Selkirk College also previously announced it will construct a two-storey student housing building at Nelson’s Silver King campus that will add 36 beds.
Dooley said he expects another increase in building permit applications this year, and that he believes the city will have to consider a boundary expansion at some point.
“We have a lot of good pieces of the puzzle. We have really good schools. We have a very safe community. We’ve got multiple opportunities for people to live, work and play in our area. So yes, I can see substantial growth in the next 20 years.”
The rise in residential construction has also coincided with a cost of living that’s increasingly out of reach for Nelson residents.
A report published in November found parents need to earn $19.56 per hour for at least 35 hours every week to support a family of four in Nelson. Another report released in July said 2,100 people in Nelson are living below the poverty line.
The 2021 census also showed growth across the West Kootenay since 2016.
Castlegar’s population grew slightly to 8,338, as did Trail (7,709), Creston (5,583) and Grand Forks (4,112).
Salmo’s population dropped by one person to 1,140, Ymir fell to 214 and Kaslo rose to 1,049.
Other RDCK areas include: Area A (2,241); Area B (4,802); Area C (1,475); Area D (1,462); Area G (1,650); Area H (5,045); Area I (2,607); Area J (3,517); and Area K (1,784).
Canada’s total population grew up 36.9 million, while British Columbia grew by 7.6 per cent to five million.
Statistics Canada will release six more data packages with findings from the census throughout the year. The next on April 27 will focus on demographics.
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