Our region’s population grew by 9,445 people between 2016 and 2021 — an increase of 6.8%
That’s above the provincial population growth change of 5.8%, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
What’s most surprising is the imbalance in growth between Peterborough city and county. The City of Peterborough added 2,619 people, an increase of 3.2%, while the county added 6,858 people for a staggering 12% increase — more than double the provincial average.
The County of Peterborough’s outgoing Official Plan worked with the projection of the population increasing to 61,000 by 2031. It’s currently at 64,000. The current draft official plan has a revised projection of 82,000 people by 2051. If growth continues at its current pace, it will hit that target by 2031. Even at the provincial average growth rate, Peterborough County will hit 82,000 people by 2041.
There is the possibility that at the last 5 years are an anomaly. Perhaps it was the perfect storm of ready-to-go subdivision plans, investments in municipal water and sewer capacity, and a sudden desire for people to get out of the big city and move here. Between 2011 and 2016, the county’s population increased by a respectable 4.4%.
Meanwhile the City of Peterborough has been consistently growing at around 3% every five years. The census indicates growth at 4.4% in 2011, 2.9% in 2016, and 3.2% in 2021. It’s on track to hit its growth target of 88,000 people by 2031 as set out in the official plan.
Evidently, the desire for growth is still outpacing our ability to provide it. The average house price in January jumped to $814,495. Month-after-month of record-breaking house prices should be a good indication that our region has more growth potential.
Growth in this range is going to bring more challenges, especially as more people flock to rural communities.
Transportation infrastructure is critical in managing a booming population. We need efficient ways to move people where they want to go. We’re going to find that some of our four-way stop sign intersections can’t handle the volume of traffic any more. Roads will need to be upgraded, passing lanes added, and bridges rehabilitated. There is also a growing desire for better cycling infrastructure and transit service. Facilitating growth includes expanding infrastructure like water and sewer service, recreational facilities, and high-speed internet.
Growth can be expensive.
But growth also brings opportunity for local businesses. More people living local leads to an increased need for groceries, places to eat, recreational opportunities, and entertainment. Some new residents are even bringing their businesses with them. The overall customer base is growing and that’s a community benefit.
The census numbers also show that growth happens with no particular concern for municipal borders, highlighting the need for us to work as a region in our approach to economic development and planning future infrastructure.
Regardless of the price tag, our region is in the midst of a population boom. It’s time to embrace the situation, plan and invest in the infrastructure needed to facilitate this growth, and make the most of the opportunities it presents.