The Harbour City is now home to 100,000 people.
According to the City of Nanaimo’s best estimates, population has reached six digits, “an important milestone in the city’s history,” said Mayor Leonard Krog at last week’s council meeting.
The city’s population was 90,500 in the 2016 census. The 100,000-plus count will become more exact and more official later this year when 2021 census information is available, but in the meantime, data from B.C. Stats and the city’s GIS platform make Nanaimo’s economic development officer Amrit Manhas comfortable in confirming that 100,000 has been reached.
B.C. Stats doesn’t estimate population by municipality, but estimates by regional district, school district and local health area, for example, and so Manhas was able to extrapolate Nanaimo’s estimated population.
Krog, at last week’s meeting, presented a brief timeline of the city’s growth from Snuneymuxw villages, through its coal mining history and incorporation in 1874 when there were 1,000 residents, to today when Nanaimo considers itself B.C.’s fifth-largest urban centre after Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Abbotsford-Mission.
Saanich is Vancouver Island’s most populous municipality, with Victoria third.
“We are not done growing…” Krog said. “I know that for some it is a difficult adjustment from the small town they may have grown up in or their grandparents knew, but there is much to be positive about in this city’s future.”
Manhas said population size and growth speak to a community’s attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest. She said population growth increases the consumer base for business, expands the pool of skilled workers to grow business and attracts new business.
“We are at this point providing the services and amenities of large metropolitan areas,” she said.
Her department is working on a state of the economy report to present to city council this month and Manhas said she’s seeing “great indicators,” for example a real estate market that’s seeing more young families moving to the city. She said the majority of Nanaimo’s growth in recent years has come from people relocating from other parts of B.C., and said the city’s population growth has come with “increasing” diversity.
A hundred thousand people in Nanaimo has caused a squeeze. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2020 data puts Nanaimo’s apartment vacancy rate at just one per cent, down from two per cent in 2019. Dale Lindsay, the city’s general manager of community development, said he thought “significant investment” in new rental buildings the past few years might have eased the vacancy rate, but acknowledged that it does take time for projects to come online.
“We have some major buildings now that are getting near occupancy,” he said. “How that number will impact the vacancy rate, I don’t know. We’re all hopeful it makes a positive impact, but we’re also seeing continued interest in Nanaimo.”
Anecdotally, said Lindsay, people are interested in moving to mid-size cities for reasons of affordability, more room to spread out it a pandemic, and because of new opportunities to work remotely.
Krog said people are choosing Nanaimo as a city in which they want to raise a family, learn, work, invest and play.
“We are poised to be the city that I think all of us want it to be, that is livable, that is a leader, that is attractive to everyone and sets an example,” the mayor said. “100,000 is a big number and it deserves celebration.”