WATERLOO REGION — As the economy faltered, this region added only 3,100 residents last year, the smallest increase in population since 1996.
Planners had forecast the region would add 6,100 residents. On average, the community has been adding almost 8,000 residents a year over the past 15 years.
However, even as population growth slowed, local cities and townships continued to add homes and buildings at a comparatively strong pace. This suggests population growth will rebound this year as people fill the new homes.
“We are still a very attractive place to live and work, and an attractive place for national and international investment,” said Rob Horne, planning commissioner for Waterloo regional government. “We’ve got a strong future.”
A regional planning report predicts growth will return to recent levels in 2010.
The report states: “The region’s continuing growth reflects the diversity of the local economy, low interest rates, and the community’s desirability from a quality of life point of view.”
Civic planners estimate Waterloo Region reached a population of 534,900 in 2009. This includes university and college students often left out of census counts.
The last time in the past 15 years that the population grew so slowly was in 1996, when the region added 3,000 residents.
Horne is confident the region is still on pace to reach 729,000 residents by 2031. This population estimate is driving growth plans that include a proposed rapid transit system.
Building activity in the region slowed last year but did not fall as heavily as population growth.
The value of new construction dipped in 2009 but was still the third-highest value recorded in the last 10 years, a summary report reveals. Permits were issued for 2,770 residential units, just 11 per cent below the long-term average for the past 30 years.
Local housing starts dipped by 13 per cent, compared to a provincial decline of 33 per cent and collapses of 31 to 48 per cent in other southern Ontario housing markets.
Pointing to these comparatively strong numbers, planners estimate the region will grow to 542,100 residents this year, an increase of 7,200.
Estimated 2009 populations
Waterloo Region: 534,900
North Dumfries: 9,450