Langley Township was BC's second-fastest growing municipality last year

As Mission and the Langleys grow at a rapid pace, Abbotsford lags

Three of the five fastest-growing municipalities in BC last year are located in the Fraser Valley đź“Š Tyler Olsen

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2024, edition of the Fraser Valley Current newsletter. Subscribe for free to get Fraser Valley news in your email every weekday morning.

Langley is one of the fastest-growing communities in BC—and the entire country. So is Mission. Abbotsford, just next door, is very much not.

Last year, the combined populations of Fraser Valley’s five largest municipalities grew by more than 17,000.

With population growth rates near five per cent, the two Langleys along with Mission were among BC’s five fastest-growing cities between 2022 and 2023. But as they boomed, Abbotsford’s population only ticked slightly upwards. (Chilliwack grew slightly faster than the provincial average.)

A new city in a city

Langley’s rapid growth isn’t particularly news. But its scale—and the participation of Langley City—are worth focusing on. As is the sudden emergence of Mission as a fellow Fraser Valley growth centre.

Between 2019 and 2023, Langley Township grew by more than 20,000 residents. (All numbers here refer to the estimated population on July 1 of each year.) With a growth rate of 15.5% over that time period, the township beat out Surrey for the crown of BC’s fastest-growing big city or town. Among municipalities with more than 30,000 residents (as of 2023), only the Victoria suburb of Langford and Langley City grew at a faster rate.

The combined population of Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, and the Langley’s grew by slightly more than 45,000 since 2019. That’s about the same number of people as live in Mission today.

Story continues below

Langley City’s growth might seem natural, given the Township’s well-established influx of new residents, but it’s a new development. Between 2000 and 2019, the city added people at a snail’s pace—only around 3,000 over those two decades. But in recent years, new construction and incoming residents from surrounding communities has resulted in a sudden influx to Langley’s urban core. And in the last two years for which we have figures, the City’s population grew by around 3,300 residents, as much as it had during the entirety of the 2000s and the 2010s.

Mission’s growth had been following a similar trajectory in recent decades, ticking upwards by around 1,000 people each year. But a building boom over the last two years has resulted in the city’s population soaring by nearly 2,000 people from 2022 to 2023. That has left Mission in the company of the Langleys as one of the Fraser Valley’s prime destinations for incoming residents.

Those municipalities stand in contrast, though, to Abbotsford. That city’s council has stressed that it would like to build more homes—and has been handed the assignment to do so by the provincial government. But with much of its land constrained by the Agricultural Land Reserve, and promised redevelopment projects taking more time than expected, Abbotsford’s population growth has lagged behind not only its fast-growing neighbours, but behind the bulk of other cities in the province. Among BC’s 31 municipalities with more than 30,000 people, only six grew slower last year than the central Fraser Valley hub.

With a growth rate of just 6% since 2019, the story is no different if one looks further into the past; Abbotsford’s population growth ranks about seventh slowest in the province over the last five years.

The city is still the largest municipality in the region. But it won’t be for long at this rate. At the current trajectory, Langley Township’s population will overtake Abbotsford’s by 2027, if not sooner.

To the east, meanwhile, the City of Chilliwack’s growth has roughly kept pace with both the provincial and national averages. That might come as a surprise to local residents, but there’s a good reason for that.

Although the municipality itself has added residents at a rate close to the provincial average, neighbourhoods just outside the city’s boundaries are growing even faster.

The Popkum and Cultus Lake areas—technically outside of the city’s boundaries—have grown significantly, adding around 1,000 new residents combined over the past five years. And growth on local First Nation reserves—especially Tzeachten’s Vedder Crossing neighbourhoods—have also swelled the area’s population.

Factoring in those areas would push the greater Chilliwack’s population group modestly above the provincial average over the last five years, even if it still wouldn’t approach the rate of BC’s fastest-growing municipalities.

The Fraser Valley’s small municipalities—Hope, Harrison Hot Springs, and Kent—all grew slower than the provincial average last year. Kent actually lost people, according to Statistics Canada, though the decline amounted to seven individuals and comes only a year after the municipality saw its population grow by 473 people.

(Those disparities show how the figures, which come from Statistics Canada, can vary significantly from year to year; those yearly variations—especially in communities with small populations—can reflect how the data is collected as much as specific changes on the ground. Data collected over multiple years are much less subject to such issues.)

Hope and Harrison Hot Springs each posted population gains of between 2% and 3%. Both communities have now posted years of increases. Since 2019, Hope has added 400 residents, with its population growing by 5.3%. Harrison’s resident count, meanwhile, has surged by 12% since 2019. That puts its growth close to that of Surrey and a little behind the Langleys.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2024, edition of the Fraser Valley Current newsletter. Subscribe for free to get Fraser Valley news in your email every weekday morning.

If you read and appreciate our stories, we need you to become a paying member to help us keep producing great journalism.

Our readers' support means tens of thousands of locals in the Fraser Valley can continue getting local news, and in-depth, award-winning reporting. We can't do it without you. Whether you give monthly or annually, your help will power our local reporting for years to come. With enough support, we’ll be able to hire more journalists and produce even more great stories about your community.

But we aren’t there yet. Support us for as low at $2 per week, and rest assured you’re doing your part to help inform your community.

Join us, make a difference, and become a Fraser Valley Insider member today.

- Tyler, Joti, and Grace.

Join the conversation

or to participate.