Walk the city’s streets and Nelson today probably doesn’t look much different than it did when the last census was taken in 2016.
But the city is changing, mostly in ways that aren’t obvious to the naked eye.
The 2021 census data, released throughout this year by Statistics Canada, revealed demographic shifts towards a more affluent, educated and ethnically diverse population that for the first time is more than 11,000 people.
With an average age of 43, Nelson has the youngest population among West Kootenay communities in a region that skews older than both the provincial and national averages.
Common-law couples without children are making Nelson their home. There were 1,320 such couples in Nelson in 2021, up from 1,170 in 2016.
Accordingly, residents have more money to spend. The median total household income is now $72,500, a 27.8 per cent increase over five years. But gender parity remains an issue in Nelson, where men still typically make more money than women.
(Take the census’ income data with a heap of salt, however, since it was pulled from 2020 stats that were influenced by COVID-19 and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.)
One reason for the increase in wages could be that it is more common for residents to have received higher education. Nearly 800 more residents ages 15 and older now have a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree than they did in 2016.
Immigrants are also moving to Nelson in record numbers. The city added 340 residents over five years from other countries, mostly of the United States, the United Kingdom and India. To put that into perspective, only 260 immigrants moved to Nelson from 1980 to 2000.
It makes sense then that you are more likely to hear a different language than English or French on the streets of Nelson. The number of residents whose mother tongue is the Filipino language Tagalog was the highest growing group in Nelson, up 50 speakers to 90. Punjabi and Hindi speakers also grew in number.
Finally, in a city with a severe need for affordable housing and rental units, more residents are turning to home ownership.
There are 3,125 households in Nelson that own their homes, up from 2,945 in 2016. But those residents are also paying more than ever to buy homes. The average value of dwellings in 2021 was $587,500, or over $200,000 more than it was five years prior.
What will Nelson look like when the next census is held in 2026? Your guess is as good as ours.