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Kelowna's population hits the quintessential quarter of a million

Plug in the Central Okanagan to BC Statistic's population estimates and projections tool and it spits out 256,944.

Yes, that's right, for the first time, the Kelowna census metropolitan area has hit a major milestone and is home to over a quarter of a million people.

"Definitely, the word is out," said ReMax Kelowna realtor Rick Hamer-Jackson.

"Everyone wants to live in Kelowna. We've always had the things that attract people, like great weather, mountains, lakes, golf and skiing and wine. But now, we're also big enough to have big-city infrastructure and everything you need."

<who>Photo credit: Nick Csek/NowMedia Group</who>Kelowna realtor Rick Hamer-Jackson can now tell everyone he's from Kelowna, population: 250,000.

Hamer-Jackson said, particularly when he travels, everyone asks: Where are you from? And, how big is that?

"I've been saying: Kelowna and around 200,000. Now, I can say 250,000 or a quarter of a million," he added with a laugh.

We used 'quintessential' in the headline because it's an ideal alliteration with the 'quarter' in a quarter of a million.

Quintessential also means a 'perfectly typical example' and Kelowna is the consummate specimen of a rapidly growing city that people want to move and be in for the enviable lifestyle.

We could have also used 'quixotic' or 'qualifiable' in the headline for alliteration because they mean qualified, visionary and ambitious.

And Kelowna has certainly had ambitious population growth.

<who>Photo credit: Contributed</who>From 1996 to 2024, the Kelowna census metropolitan area's population has grown from 136,540 to 256,944.

This is where we have to qualify that there are different ways to measure population and Kelowna.

Yes, Kelowna is a city and the City of Kelowna proper has an estimated population of 161,000, according to the World Population Review.

Statistics Canada is more the bible when it comes to population counts.

StatsCan measures the Kelowna census metropolitan area, which is essentially the Central Okanagan, including the City of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Lake Country and Westbank First Nation lands.

As of July 1, 2023, StatsCan estimated the Kelowna census metropolitan area population at 246,894.

In a recent release of economic indicators, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission estimated the population at the end of 2023 at 247,216, up a substantial 4.3% over 2022's 237,113.

The commission based its numbers on BC Statistic's population estimates and projections data.

That got us to thinking that we should grab the latest figure, thus the 256,944.

By the way, the estimate also broke it down to 129,656 females and 127,288 males.

Now, 256,944 is just a number and just a few thousand more than when it was 247,216 last year.

But, for the first time it's over 250,000.

It's a milestone, it's big-time, it's a magic number, it puts Kelowna in the big leagues.

<who>Photo credit: Colin Kreig</who>Kelowna realtor Colin Kreig said rapid growth can be a double-edged sword.

"It's interesting," said ReMax Kelowna realtor Colin Kreig.

"I think peoples' perception of Kelowna is changing as we get bigger. People from bigger cities, like Toronto and Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton, may still think of Kelowna as a smaller city, but one they'd like to move to because it's beautiful and big enough to have everything."

But, Kreig also said bigger is a double-edged sword.

"You're going to get people who complain about the traffic and how the city is growing up (with highrises) and is denser," he said.

"And, housing is definitely unaffordable for many in Kelowna. But, we're still desirable. Everyone would love to live in Kelowna, if they could afford it."

In fact, Kreig pointed out that some people from Kelowna are moving to Alberta for cheaper housing and job opportunities.

However, it's obviously not enough to offset the number of people moving here for the lifestyle because Kelowna is getting the population gains to put it over 250,000.

Population spikes have put a strain on Canada's housing supply -- there's a severe shortage -- which creates competition for the housing there is, driving up home prices and rents in an economy that already has high inflation, high interest rates and a high cost of living.

Kelowna's bump over 250,000 population maintains its status as the 19th largest city (census metropolitan area) in Canada.

This list is Statistics Canada's latest-available population estimates as of July 1, 2023.

1. Toronto: 6,804,847

2. Montreal: 4,502,177

3. Vancouver: 2,971,853

4. Calgary: 1,683,509

5. Ottawa-Gatineau: 1,608,805

6. Edmonton: 1,563,571

7. Winnipeg: 910,240

8. Quebec City: 880,875

9. Hamilton: 841,186

10. Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge: 665,188

11. London: 608,343

12. Halifax: 518,711

13. St. Catharines-Niagara: 478,262

14. Windsor: 467,973

15. Oshawa: 464,356

16. Victoria: 434,429

17. Saskatoon: 353,093

18. Regina: 271,119

19. Kelowna: 246,894 (with BC Stats estimate update: 256,944)

20. Sherbrooke: 238,808

21. Barrie: 238,540

22. St. John's: 232,039

23. Abbotsford-Mission: 213,785

24. Kingston: 188,267

25. Sudbury: 185,230

Kelowna brisk growth since 2016 helped push it up the list from 22 to 19, surpassing St. John's, Barrie and Sherbrooke.

By the way, Canada's population surged past 40 million for the first time in 2023 to 40,098,000.

British Columbia's population last year was 5.5 million.

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