Blackfalds, which once had bragging rights as the fastest growing community in the country, has not been immune to Alberta’s lingering economic downturn.
“Stats show our growth was down to just over two per cent. So, we’re not the fastest growing at two per cent,” said Mayor Richard Poole.
“There are other communities within the province, for whatever reason, are outgrowing us.”
Early 2017 was a heady time for Blackfalds. Statistics Canada numbers came out in February that showed the town had grown 48.1 per cent between 2011 and 2016, reaching a population of 9,328.
Those impressive numbers meant Blackfalds was not only Alberta’s population-growth leader, but No. 1 among the 25 fastest-growing communities in all of Canada with a population over 5,000 outside a metropolitan area.
A year later, the town had another reason to celebrate when its population topped 10,000.
Poole said all of the assets that made the town so popular — competitive housing prices, a good location and plenty of amenities — remain and he expects to see growth pick up this year.
“We’re not going to have a decrease in population. We’re going to continue growing.”
The town is not going to bother doing a census this year. The amount it would cost would likely be more than the additional grant money the town would get from per capita provincial funding programs.
Year-end development statistics reflect the cooling local economy in Blackfalds.
There were 26 permits worth $7.1 million issued last year for single-family homes, down from 73 permits worth $18.9 million in 2017.
Townhouse permits were also down, with 26 permits worth $3.6 million last year and 49 worth $7.4 million in 2017.
Overall, there were 251 permits issued worth $19.7 million, down from 376 worth $50.2 million.
Poole said the steep drops follow a very hot year for building in 2017.
“Last year, we really kind of had a boom year considering the economic realities around our community.”
That created plenty of housing stock that has not all sold yet.
“Right now, we have an opportunity in our community for anybody to come into our town and find a very beautiful house at a very reasonable cost,” he said.
“We’re expecting after these fill up, we’ll be again looking at development permits rebounding.”
“I am looking for a recovery to happen.”