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Surrey to see big boom in young workers in coming years, analyst forecasts

Andrew Ramlo predicts Surrey will have ‘really good stock’ of young workers
Andrew Ramlo, vice-president of advisory services for Rennie, forecasts to a Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association luncheon on Feb. 21 what’s in store for Surrey as it grows. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

An expert in demographic, economic and housing-market analysis shared some “key insights” into what’s in store for Surrey over the next couple of decades during a Wednesday (Feb. 21) luncheon hosted by the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association.

“Everybody I talk to, it seems the pace of change is getting faster and faster and faster,” Andrew Ramlo said. “And within that context it’s my belief that now more than ever we need to have really good handles on the drivers of and implications for community change, and you guys, because of the availability of land, and desirability to be down here, I think are front and centre of that as well.”

Ramlo is vice-president of advisory services for Rennie – a real estate brokerage with more than 270 advisors. He spoke Feb. 21 at the Civic Hotel, at 13475 Central Ave.

“Demographically we are moving back to a period we last saw in the 1980s. And what was that period characterized by? The post World War II boom came of age, they entered family formation, they entered the labour force and they also entered the housing market,” he noted.

Population growth in the Lower Mainland will necessitate the need for residential construction that’s 50 per cent to 60 per cent higher than current levels in the short term, Ramlo said. “What this is going to result in is a real significant change in the residential structure, the fabric or the land use, however you want to term that.”

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He addressed coming opportunities and constraints for Surrey. Ramlo expects roughly 60 per cent growth in Surrey –almost 400,000 more people – by 2046.

It’s anticipated Surrey will grow faster than Metro Vancouver, which is expected to grow by about 43 per cent over that same period.

“Some bragging rights, if this is achieved,” Ramlo said.

From now to 2046, he said, Surrey can expect to see 69 per cent growth in population of those aged 25 to 64 – roughly 242,100 more workers, primarily through migration because “you cannot be born a 25 year old.”

Surrey can expect “really significant opportunities in terms of a young workforce,” Ramlo said. “This bodes really, really well for somewhere like downtown as an employment centre, you’re going to have a really good stock of young labour force people to work within it.”

Surrey in that time can also expect to see 34 per cent more young people up to the age of 24, some 70,400 more kids, given a projected fertility rate of 1.4 children per household. This will have significant implications for schools, Ramlo said.

“So issues right now of overcrowded schools and portables. I presented this to the mayor and she just about pulled some of her hair out.”

As for residents 65 and older, Surrey can expect 81 per cent growth in that population – 82,700 more seniors in Surrey over the next 23 years. Most of that demographic, he said, is already here, it’s just that they are 20 to 25 years younger than they will be in 2046.

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Concerning migration and mobility for the younger set of the population, Ramlo noted, it’s not just all about immigration. He consulted census records for Surrey, and what he found was of those 122,435 people who indicated they were migrants in Surrey on their census forms in 2021, 45 per cent came from international origins while the remaining 55 per cent “came from domestic origins. Really, really interesting.”

“If I break that out and find out where they’re coming from what I find the big bulk of people, is people coming intra-provincially, not inter-provincially. Inter-provincially is between provinces, intra-provincial is people moving around within the province. What’s the driver to this? If I actually took it down one step further and looked at it from a municipal side of things, what I’m going to speculate – I’ve got the data on some other jurisdictions – is that a lot of the intra-provincial migration to Surrey is generated out of the region. It’s people getting out of Vancouver and getting into Surrey.”

Put another way, he added, once Vancouver residents “hit about 30, you get through school and you’re done partying and all that stuff, and you’re starting to think about having a family, and you know, what do you say? ‘I just don’t want to really do that in 550 square feet, so I want a little bit of grass, maybe a Mr. Turtle pool out back, and so I’m going to look to the jurisdictions that those things are available.”

That said, the City of Surrey is currently seeking public input to develop a new Official Community Plan (OCP) to guide growth and invites participants to do an online survey open until March 31.

Surrey’s current OCP is more than 10 years old and the provincial government requires that all community plans be updated every five years.

Mayor Brenda Locke, in a written statement issued by the City of Surrey, explained the new OCP, expected to be completed by late 2025, will “shape the vision, objectives and policies of Surrey for the next decade” with an aim to support “affordable housing options, improved transportation options, and additional recreational amenities.”

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Ramlo said our economic and demographic futures won’t simply be extensions of past trends.

“If I look back historically on the planning side, the official community plans, well they just take a compound growth rate and apply it to the population and sort of stick it out and say this is where we’d end up. We’re well beyond that in terms of some of the drivers to what’s changing our population.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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