Metro Vancouver population set to surpass 4 million before 2050

Metro Vancouver's population is projected to surpass 4 million in the mid 2040s, according to new calculations. (Getty Images)
Metro Vancouver's population is projected to surpass 4 million in the mid 2040s, according to new calculations. (Getty Images)

The population in Metro Vancouver is set to surpass four million sometime in the mid 2040s, according to projections released Friday in a regional planning document.

By 2050, the number of people living in the region will reach 4,210,400, it says, based on a scenario of medium growth.

That represents an increase of about 50 per cent or 1.4 million people over the 2021 population of 2,784,300.

Simon Fraser University urban studies associate professor Meg Holden says that pace of growth will bring change.

"The tolerance that people in our region have tended to pride ourselves on is going to be put to a significant test as the density and diversity grows much faster," said Holden in an email.

"Chances are, our multicultural neighbourhoods will become more scarce and ethnic enclaves will become more the norm, as we see in Toronto, for example."

Significant expansions in services and infrastructure will be needed, including in sectors like housing and transit that are already under strain.

"We have a significant task ahead of us, which is to build the amount of housing that we need in our communities," said B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks at a media event in Victoria B.C. on Friday Sept. 29, 2023 where he outlined legislative changes coming to help build more homes in B.C.
B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says meeting the housing needs of the Metro Vancouver population now and in the future is a significant challenge. (Michael McArthur/CBC News)

"We are not going to be able to meet the test of how much housing you need without transit-oriented development, without the small-scale multi-unit legislation that we passed. That type of housing is going to be vitally important for us to reach the goals of getting the housing for the people we need."

In a statement sent to CBC, TransLink said it needs a new sustainable funding model and investments to meet the needs of the growing population.

"Last year alone, the region's population grew by 120,000 people, which is more than double Metro Vancouver's initial growth projections for 2023," said spokesperson Dan Mountain. "Transit overcrowding has also returned to pre-pandemic levels and continues to worsen over time."

B.C. Hydro said it's planning for the growth on multiple fronts. The Site C dam project will next year increase electricity generation in the province by eight per cent, enough to power half a million more homes or 1.7 million electric vehicles per year.

The public utility has also launched a program to acquire 3,000 gigawatt hours per year of renewable energy, including wind and solar, as part of its $36 billion 10-year capital plan.

Holden cautions that some newcomers are reconsidering choosing Metro Vancouver after they arrive and realize just how difficult it has become to achieve a decent lifestyle in B.C.

"So although this is the projection now, the reality may shift from this," she said. "On the upside, there is great potential for Canadian cities to benefit from the new labour, ideas and aspirations for peaceful and higher quality life that come with these newcomers."

Metro Vancouver also put out population projections based on low growth and high growth scenarios.

Under the high growth scenario, Vancouver and Surrey could surpass a million residents each by 2050, with the total population in the region reaching 4.4 million.

Under the low growth scenario, the regional population by 2050 is just under 4 million.