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Lack of youth unhealthy, says regional director

Regional growth strategy blamed for demographic woes by Errington director

While Regional District of Nanaimo Area F director Julian Fell sees a population spike in Errington as a positive sign for the area, what pleases him is the makeup of those who live there.

The Errington area saw its population numbers jump by 11.1 per cent between 2006 and the latest Census in 2011.

“I’m glad we have some growth here because it’s a measure of being able to provide homes for people who otherwise can’t afford them,” he said.

“The average price for a home in Parksville or Qualicum Beach is way beyond what the average person can afford and, as usual, those who can’t afford to live in those towns move to Area F to find a place to live.”

Fell noted that the number of people under the age of 20 was close to what he called a healthy norm, at 30 per cent. However, he said this is simply not true in many other areas of the district.

“In Qualicum Beach it’s under 10 per cent,” he said. “Parksville and Nanaimo showed a more normal demographic, but other areas, including Gabriola and  Lantzville, not only didn’t show a significant population growth, but the number of people under the age of 20 shrank.”

This, he said, is an indicator of an unhealthy community.

“There are not enough kids to keep the schools open and there are problems with people not being able to find employment that pays enough to be able to own a house,” he said. “Area F, despite high prices, shows a condition where there might be a possibility of people still owning their own home.”

Fell said some of the blame for the skewed demographic must lie with the district’s regional growth stragegy.

“It dried up areas where extra housing could be produced,” he said, “In the name of a social theory which is treated like a religion, they are sacrificing the youth and future employment of the area.”

Fell said his views on the strategy are not popular around the RDN board table, however.

“When I express that at the RDN it seems to annoy them,” he said. “However, I consider these effects immoral and unethical. I don’t care where they put it, but they should ensure there is an adequate supply of housing of all types. They must allow sufficient subdivision to accommodate all the people who want to buy property and allow rentals in all price ranges for people who want to rent.”

He said when the supply of housing dries up, it becomes a bidding war, with only the wealthy benefitting.

“It’s like an auction,” he said. “Only the rich guys win and the poor get driven out. We have people living in campers and under tarps in the woods and people pretend it isn’t happening.”