Kelowna facing economic predicament

Being the oldest census city in Canada as well as having the fourth most unaffordable housing market shows that Kelowna is facing an economic predicament.

"We have no net population growth. If we are going to grow it will come from people choosing to live here," says Regional District of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Director Robert Fine.

"We are still going to attract people to the area and based on the price of housing, we're going to attract older people," says Fine.

Fine says if the trend continues, Kelowna will find itself in a serious economic predicament.

An older retired population means more medical services, hospitals and related jobs -- but no work force to care for them.

"Who is going to provide those services if we haven't got people in those jobs? That poses a series of challenges for the long term economic survival of the region as a whole."

Fine says attracting young professionals who are able to earn enough income to afford housing is key.

For Fine, part of the process is a proposal being pitched to Kelowna City Council on Monday.

"There isn't a lot of information out there as to what there is to do if you are a young person," says Fine, adding that younger people need to see an image of Kelowna that welcomes young professionals.

More avenues for young people to become involved in the community are also needed.

"Those that participate in or have a passion for community organizations will stay."

Fine says more professional development opportunities, such as mentorships, need to be offered specifically for younger professionals.

With 20 per cent of the population over 65, Kelowna needs to foster a young professional culture -- such as casual non-structured professional events -- says Fine.

For now, Fine says young people looking to move to the Okanagan need to check out the services currently available and the job opportunities for their skill set.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

He says the flip side is that prohibitive costs and wealthy retirees indicate the area is incredibly desirable from a Canadian and global perspective.

"This is a pretty spectacular place to live. There's an attraction element, which is why people want to come here. But knowing what it costs should be an important part of the discussion when making those decisions."

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