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City population forecast to increase by 50,000 by 2026

Hutton D  2009 “Population Boom Eyed”,  The StarPhoenix ,  March 10

The number of people in Saskatoon will boom by 50,000 to 260,000 by 2026, a new population projection report says.

The report, the first commissioned jointly by the city and the Saskatoon Health Region and presented Monday at a city council committee meeting, took into account the area surrounding Saskatoon, which is growing at twice the rate as the city itself.

When the surrounding area is accounted for the population will swell to 303,000 by 2026 from 240,000.

That trend mirrors growth in bedroom communities such as Martensville and Warman in recent years.

"The numbers are reflective of what we've been experiencing lately," said Randy Grauer, manager of the city's planning and development branch.

The numbers paint a picture of a city on the brink of remarkable change. The next few decades will see an explosion in the number of people in the city who are older than 65, with that demographic more than doubling in size to 58,713 in 2026 from 26,413 in 2006, the report says. That includes a huge jump in the 85 and older demographic, which is expected to grow to 18,465 from 4,153.

The economic and social impact of the aging baby boomer generation is huge, Grauer said. Already the city has begun to diversify the types of housing planned for new neighbourhoods such as Stonebridge, Willowgrove, Hampton Village, Evergreen and Rosewood, with more assisted living and senior-oriented housing included. "They're not enclaves for one type of home," he said.

Grauer said if projections are correct, the city will be need about 25,000 more housing units to accommodate the growing population.

"It's not going to be 25,000 2,000-square-foot, two-storey homes with a triple garage," he said. "We need to be flexible."

The growth is coming, as it has traditionally, from people moving from rural centres, but a growing number of people are moving from out of province and out of country, Grauer said.

At the presentation to an executive committee meeting, Mayor Don Atchison noted Monday the increased demand the aging population will place on the city's accessible transit service, which he said is already stretched due to a lack of provincial funding.

The high school enrolment decline already hitting city school divisions will continue, with a 14.7 per cent drop in the age 15 to 19 demographic, mirroring a national trend. But there is positive news at the end of the 20-year period with a jump coming in the elementary-aged demographic that should eventually push up high school enrolment, he said.

With more seniors and a stagnant teenage market, the city will likely see changes in the type of leisure activities and entertainment planned to accommodate the aging population, Grauer said.

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