Families Skipping Calgary’s Inner-City? Census says Yes, but We’re not Alone
It seems that whenever a new census report is released there is a corresponding stampede to put some context to the numbers. Case in point is the recent headline in the Calgary Herald; “Canada’s baby boom skipping inner-city Calgary”. Judging from the comments in the article, it would seem that Calgary was woefully underperforming in this area when compared to other municipalities. We must be doing something wrong if our young families are not settling in the urban areas of our inner-city, such as Mission or Victoria Park, as the article stated.
Could this be true? Is Calgary missing the boat while other municipalities seem to have this figured out? Not exactly.
While digging into the census data by individual neighbourhood across Canada is possible, we don’t have to go that far to get a clear picture. Take for instance the Toronto CMA (census metropolitan area). 13.4 to 16.7% of the population aged 0-14 years reside in Toronto proper. Go out to Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham and Brampton and that increases to upwards of 20%.
Montreal? More of the same; but their percentages of children only increase significantly when you are even further away from the city proper.
What about Vancouver? We’ve been led to believe that Vancouver is the model of young families happily living within a high density urban environment. The city of Vancouver has an even smaller percentage of the under-14 cohort than Toronto or Montreal. That percentage rests at under 13.4%. In fact, when you do drill down into Van’s neigbourhood data, the downtown, Mount Pleasant and Fairview areas have very high working age populations with even fewer children and seniors. Interestingly enough, these were the only areas in the City of Vancouver to experience rapid population growth in the last 5 years. Families went elsewhere, apparently out to Maple Ridge and Surrey judging by the numbers.
So what’s the point of all this analysis? It seems families with children choosing to live outside the most urbanized areas of their city or broader CMA is not a trend unique to Calgary. So what do we do about that? Change it, or Embrace it?
The following statement comes from within the Census Report package:
“This information allows for service delivery to be adjusted according to differences in the age structure. It helps decision makers meet the various challenges related to managing municipalities, including building infrastructure, such as schools, child care services, senior residences and health care facilities, as well as improving public transit and services.”
This statement illustrates that for years the purpose of any municipality has been to accommodate the needs of all their citizens, regardless of the housing and location choices they make. Some are now saying this must change. We must instead create new policy and incentives/disincentives to shift those behavioural preferences into location and housing choices more in line with future planning ideals.
Ultimately that’s the big question at the heart of this discussion. It seems that at least for today most Canadians have given us a clear answer: their address.