Despite concerns from Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, Metro Vancouver has adopted a new regional growth strategy.
With 1,000,000 new residents expected to settle in Metro Vancouver by 2050, the strategy is about where people will live, where they’ll work, and which land should be protected amid increased housing demand.
The strategy is intended to promote: “the creation of communities that are socially, economically, and environmentally healthy,” stated Eric Woodward, the chair of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Planning Committee.
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In the Tri-Cities, the population is set to balloon from 263,100 in 2020 to 396,500 by 2050.
That growth is largely driven by immigration, as approximately 80 percent of B.C.’s permanent residents tend to settle in Metro Vancouver, according to the 2050 strategy. B.C.’s net migration reached a record in 2021, with 100,797 newcomers arriving.
Accommodating that growth will also mean adding approximately 68,900 units of housing in the Tri-Cities, for a total of 165,700 and nearly 50,000 jobs. According to the latest census data, the Tri-Cities currently has approximately 97,014 units of housing.
To help assuage the housing crisis, the strategy sets a regional goal for at least 15 percent of new housing around transit hubs to be affordable rental. Generally, if a household is paying a maximum of 30 -percent including utilities for housing, that housing is considered affordable.
During a 2022 discussion on the plan, Coun. Darrell Penner pointed to a lack of city-specific goals.
“We’ve felt a little disenfranchised from Metro,” Penner said at the time. “It seems like the ship’s sailing on autopilot.”
Hitting that 15 percent affordable rental target could be a challenge in Port Coquitlam, according to a city staff report.
Given the constraints posed by the rail yards, Port Coquitlam would likely struggle to add jobs and housing along the Lougheed Highway corridor, which is considered a major transit hub.
“To come close to the regional target, the city would need to significantly increase its inclusionary zoning requirements . . . or provide municipal lands at no cost or nominal leases,” the report stated.
Coquitlam council also expressed concern over hitting Metro Vancouver’s targets of 15 percent affordable rental housing in certain growth areas.
By in large, council contended that municipalities should have a more substantive role in planning their future, given that: ” local government is better suited to flesh out the details within their own communities,” according to a city report.
In order to keep new housing from spilling up mountainsides and into forested areas, Metro Vancouver’s plan aims to keep 98 percent of new growth within the urban containment boundary.
By 2050, seniors are expected to comprise 22 percent of Metro Vancouver’s population. Seniors currently account for 14.7 percent of the population.
The plan also emphasizes the “long-term protection” of industrial, employment and agricultural lands.
Metro Vancouver’s 60,000 hectares of agricultural land is a “vital asset” for the region, according to the plan.
“Yet land speculation, the conflicts between urban and agricultural uses, and the conversion pressures from other land uses on agricultural lands continue to threaten the resilience of agriculture in the region,” the report stated.
The 2050 strategy also includes expanding the tree canopy, particularly in urban areas.