FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Representatives from UNBC’s Community Development Institute gave a presentation at yesterday’s committee of the whole meeting of the Institute’s first community profile of Fort St. John, showing that while some facets of the city have stayed the same over the years, the community has experienced a number of drastic demographic changes.
Researcher Dr. Michael Lait and the CDI’s co-director Marleen Morris presented a summary of the Institute’s 61-page report that chronicles the changes the Energetic City has experienced over the past 32 years. The report, which represents the CDI’s first of two phases to profile the community, took a look at census data and government statistics.
Looking at the size of the community itself, Dr. Lait said that with an exception during the 1980’s energy industry recession, Fort St. John’s population grew 45 percent between 1981 and 2016, to an estimated 20,155. However, the demographics of the community have aged slightly. In 1981, people under 35 comprised 75 percent of the city’s population, but in 2016 that number fell to 57 percent.
Despite this, the city’s median age two years ago was 31.5 years, which is still far below the provincial median age of 41 years. Still, the city’s population of senior citizens increased 119 percent over the last 30 years.
Fort St. John’s residents have gotten more educated over the last 12 years, as data shows the percentage of city residents that did not complete high school fell from 20 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2016. During that time, the provincial average fell from 12 to 10 percent. The only area where Fort St. John ranked higher than the provincial average was the percentage of residents in an apprenticeship or that had a trades certificate or diploma. Fifteen percent of city residents were in the trades both in 2006 and 2016, while during that time the provincial average fell from 12 to nine percent.
Interestingly, the percentage of School District 60 students graduating high school stayed fairly constant between the 2011/12 school year and 2015/16. That rate is lower both than the provincial average rate and the percentage of Peace River South students. Another statistic showed that the percentage of First Nations students graduating in Peace River North fell slightly with wild variations during those five years, while the rate south of the Peace increased steadily over the same period.
In terms of housing, the average rental rate in Fort St. John in 2016 worked out to $1,275 per month, while Vancouver’s average that year was only $21/month more. This was despite the average value of a home in Fort St. John being over 2/3 lower than the same value in Vancouver. Despite this, Dr. Lait said that city residents faced less stress than both the average renter and homeowner in B.C. when it came to paying for their dwellings. The percentage of renters and homeowners in Fort St. John paying more than 30 percent of earnings on housing costs fell much more from 2011 to 2016 than in the rest of B.C. as a whole.
The entire report from the CDI can be read below.