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Region of Waterloo sees 5.5% population growth, Kitchener breaks 300,000 mark

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2023 was a big year for the Region of Waterloo.

According to new numbers from Statistics Canada, the population grew by a staggering 5.5 per cent last year, jumping from 638,065 people to 675,227.

The data, assembled by Canadian economist Mike Moffatt, also shows the Region of Waterloo is the fastest growing community in Ontario.

The next closest is Toronto, which grew at a rate of 4 per cent, followed by a 3.7 per cent increase in Brant and Middlesex counties.

Big growth in Waterloo Region

Waterloo Region’s population might surpass 700,000 next year if it continues at a rate of 3.7 per cent or higher.

However, if it keeps up the staggering pace of 5.5 per cent growth, the region could hit one million people by 2032 – a full 19 years sooner than previously predicted. Those estimates put the region’s population at 923,000 by 2051.

According to experts, growth is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to consider how fast it’s happening.

“It’s when there’s a mismatch between the creation of new housing supply and places for people to live or move into,” Jesse Helmer, a Place Centre researcher, explained. “If you’ve got a mismatch between the growth rate in population and the growth rate in housing, you’ve got a problem.”

Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman told CTV News that, despite the jump in population, they’re making efforts to ensure the region can keep up with increased demand for services.

“We know that we need to continue to invest in the infrastructure like the airport, phase two of the LRT and making sure that we have a vibrant economic development plan for all those people that are going to come and live in Waterloo Region,” she said Thursday.

Based on the growth rate from previous years, it appears last year’s 5.5 per cent increase was an anomaly. The Region of Waterloo grew by 3.9 per cent in 2022, 1.4 per cent in 2021, and 2.07 per cent in 2020.

Breaking down the numbers

The City of Kitchener surpassed the 300,000 population mark in 2023, adding just over 19,000 people from the year before.

According to Moffatt, Kitchener had the biggest increase of all Ontario cities with a population over 100,000, in terms of growth, at 7 per cent.

The city’s mayor said he welcomes the news, but also recognizes it comes with challenges.

“It’s hard to predict how some of these numbers will continue to play out going forward,” Berry Vrbanovic said. “Housing affordability overall becomes an issue, so it’s something we’re going to have to continue to monitor.”

Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are in the top five when it comes to growth rates in Ontario, Moffatt’s numbers show.

Cambridge was third with a growth rate of 5.5 per cent and a total population of 156,318, surpassing the 150,000 mark for the first time.

Waterloo, meanwhile, came in fifth with a growth rate of 4.9 per cent and a total population of 139,696.

The other two Ontario cities in the top five are Brampton and Niagara Falls.

Impact of non-permanent residents

The population numbers from Statistics Canada include non-permanent residents which, in Waterloo Region, is an estimated 28,177 people.

According to Statistics Canada, a 'non permanent resident' refers to a person from another country who usually resides in Canada, who has a work or study permit, or who has claimed refugee status.

“I think this is the case in college and university towns like London or Waterloo. You’ve definitely got international students being the bulk of the non-permanent residents,” Helmer explained. “I think the federal government has tried to dial back international student visas partly for this reason, which is population changes too much, too fast and they’re worried about the ability of the country to absorb all those people at once.” 

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