Squamish and Langford both lead the lists as some of the fastest-growing communities in Canada when the Census data was released. They have a lot in common and one big difference. While Langford has added many community & recreation amenities over the last few years, Squamish has missed these opportunities. Langford and Squamish both started as smaller towns outside larger cities and have turned into fast-growing hubs for young families, recreation and a place to settle down. The latest census has shown that Langford has grown 31.8% in population since 2016, and Squamish has seen 22.2% growth.
Much like Squamish, Langford’s historical reputation wasn’t splashed around as an attractive place to live. With Squamish, the community’s rapid growth was accompanied by growing pains.
But Langford was voted “Best Place For Work,” “Most Resilient City” and “Most Liveable City.” These titles were determined by calculating home price growth, nightlife, scenery, property taxes, proximity to commercial airports and population growth, among other factors. This year the city’s already snagged another title – Most Economically Resilient City in B.C., awarded by the B.C. Business Magazine.
Why do you think Squamish hasn’t won any awards for growth? It is clear that Squamish lacks amenities for the community and infrastructure. What is Langford doing that Squamish isn’t?
Langford’s mayor, Stewart Young, was determined to flip that energy around. Under the banner of a new slogan, “where it all happens,” and some fun branding with flashy ‘GET SH#T DONE’ coffee mugs, Young had a vision.
First, he cut regulatory red tape, speeding up business and development applications. Then, he focused on recreation and cultural amenities with things on a roll.
The city is now the home training ground and has or is building facilities for:
- Rugby Canada
- Pacific Football Club
- Tennis Canada
- Gold Canada
- Cycling Canada
- Rowing B.C.
- Boxing B.C.
One of Young’s primary keys to his plan was getting community benefits paid for by developers.
The critical difference in Langford is that residents can see that the money developers pay – the benefits of development are going to actual amenities to make their community a better place to live.
“It is important to remember what Langford was like before Stew became mayor. It was called “Dogpatch” and was considered a joke by others outside its borders. No more!” Norman Arden wrote in a Letter to the Editor at the Victoria News. “Stew has also been a master in getting all these amenities paid for by the developers.”
According to an article by Times Colonist, when Stew Young was growing up in Langford, there were no sewers, limited streetlights and sidewalks and very little hope for a decent job. He worked at Dairy Queen and knocked on doors to offer garbage pick-up to make a little money.
“We have 10,000 construction jobs in Langford alone,” Young said. “Langford used to have 20% unemployment, and now it’s less than 2%.”
“It’s the way he’s created a tax base that pays for bike lanes, recreation centres and affordable housing, without overburdening homeowners. Instead of increasing residential taxes, he slashed them. And when other municipalities scoffed at Costco, he welcomed the big-box retailer with open arms,” The article states.
It is clear that Langford is keeping up with the population growth around new developments. Squamish, can we do better?