Amid its burgeoning reputation as a city with an incredible quality of life—backed by an astounding 90% of residents endorsing their satisfaction—Kelowna is on the cusp of a significant real estate explosion, thanks to the impending expansion of UBC’s campus in downtown Okanagan.
Leveraging findings from a report from Real Estate Investment Network, called University Effect, the campus expansion represents far more than academic growth. Globally, universities have demonstrated their ability to significantly bolster local economies, enhance property values and foster innovation hubs. With every kilometre closer to a university translating to a 1% increase in average house prices, and the potential for high-tech job growth in communities with strong academic institutions, this expansion is set to unlock a wealth of opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and residents alike.
Population growth and property appreciation fuel economic transformation
As Kelowna prepares for an anticipated student population spike to 20,000 by 2040 from its current thriving cohort nearing 12,000, the city is set to witness a ripple effect on its economic landscape. UBC Okanagan’s expansion, crowned with architectural highlights, like a grand atrium, and cutting–edge facilities, including simulated hospital wards and a public art gallery, will serve as a magnet, escalating the already-high demand for housing, particularly in downtown Kelowna.
The city’s property market trajectory over the past decade already reveals a potent allure: a 54.1% rise in renter households from 2011 to 2021 (more than double the national average of 21.5% and a 13.5% population surge from 2016 to 2021, making it one of the fastest-growing census metropolitan areas in Canada. But it’s not just about population growth; it’s also about property value. Reflecting the broader “university effect” observed in other Canadian metropolises, homes closer to campuses often witness significantly higher appreciation rates. Proximity to downtown-based institutions can lead to a 10-20% rise in property values, making these areas hotspots for investors and homeowners.
The pressing need for student housing is further amplified by a 2020 Statistics Canada report, emphasizing that 1.3 million out of 1.5 million Canadian students depend on the private rental sphere.
This demand is particularly evident in Kelowna, where a low vacancy rate of 1.2% underscores the urgency for additional student accommodations. The city’s limited availability of rental spaces further highlights the need for investors and developers to focus on expanding student housing options.
Local businesses are also poised to reap the benefits of a student and faculty influx. Research underscores the pronounced university effect, with downtown-located institutions generating significantly higher numbers of licensing deals (80%), patents (123%), income from licensing (222%) and new ventures (71%), compared to their counterparts in rural, suburban or smaller college towns. Savvy investors are presented with a real estate market brimming with promise and ripe for strategic investment.
Kelowna’s ascent: a rising international star and Canada’s second-best small city
UBC Okanagan’s expansion further amplifies Kelowna’s global profile, drawing international academic and cultural attention. Resonance Consultancy’s 2022 Best Small Cities Report recognized Kelowna as Canada’s second-best small city, showcasing the city’s dynamic blend of opportunity, lifestyle and growth. The thriving downtown, enriched by top-ranking shopping options, diverse nightlife highlighted by 10 local breweries, five cideries, five distilleries and a culinary scene that ranks high compared to other small Canadian cities positions Kelowna as a burgeoning hotspot.
Kelowna’s vibrant growth is shining through as the city witnesses a surge in innovative architectural designs and tower proposals celebrating its flourishing downtown. With a vision for the future, the city is seamlessly integrating these developments, promising to elevate Kelowna’s skyline and enhance its stature on the global stage.
Kelowna vaults in quality of life, eco-friendly and culturally rich
The accolades and advancements don’t end with just eco-friendliness. Tying into Kelowna’s green narrative is its cultural renaissance. The expansion of UBC Okanagan’s downtown campus stands testament to this, serving as a nexus for both academic excellence and Kelowna’s cultural evolution. This campus plays a pivotal role in amplifying the city’s renowned Cultural District, inaugurated in the 1990s. Home to cultural treasures like the Kelowna Community Theatre, Kelowna Art Gallery, Rotary Centre for the Arts and the primary branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, the Cultural District is a testament to the city’s rich artistic and literary heritage. Projections indicate an influx of approximately 5,000 residents in the Downtown Plan Boundary Area over the next decade and a half, promising to add rich layers of diversity to the city’s cultural landscape.
This dual focus on environmental and cultural growth complements UBC Okanagan’s endeavours to amplify the city’s infrastructure. With a clear emphasis on pedestrian-centric pathways and dedicated cycling routes, these initiatives reaffirm Kelowna’s unmatched pedestrian and cycle-friendliness—a perfect score for both metrics—and amplify its accessibility and safety standards.
Redefining real estate horizons, emerging as prime investment hub
As the city stands on the precipice of this expansive growth, spurred by the expansion of UBC Okanagan, the narrative is clear: Kelowna isn’t just bracing for change; it’s pioneering change. As new infrastructure takes shape, Kelowna isn’t just reshaping a skyline but redefining a future, one where the city shines at its most dynamic and radiant.
It’s clear that people with a keen eye for opportunity, both prospective residents and savvy investors, are eager to tap into Kelowna’s potential. They recognize the opportunity to be part of this transformation from the outset, laying the groundwork for future gains and enriched lifestyles.
Amongst one of the best real estate opportunities in new heart of downtown Kelowna is ONE Varsity, which features studio, one- and two-bedroom residences.
For more information or to register for updates, visit onevarsity.ca.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.