Side effects of population growth in Parry Sound, Almaguin


This is part of a series of stories on the effect COVID-19 has had on the real estate market in Parry Sound-Muskoka, #COVIDrealestateboom.

Some call it the exodus from the south, some call it the pandemic effect, either way, Almaguin Community Economic Development director David Gray said it could have a positive impact on communities.

Parry Sound (photo: Divya Thakur via Wikimedia Commons)

In the Almaguin Highlands, Gray said that he has noticed residential turnover accelerate in the last eight months.

”Some folks are choosing to relocate. They’re selling and moving to different parts of the region that are complementary to what we’re seeing happen with what a lot of folks to believe to be the `pandemic effect’ of people leaving the city to come up into this area,” said Gray.

”From what we’ve seen in the market recently, housing prices seem to have ballooned in the last eight months – a lot of people are contributing that to COVID,” he said, adding that he thinks the exodus from the city may have accelerated the rise in value.

While the growth in population is certainly a positive for local economies, the other side of the coin is the recent rise in home values may make home ownership less attainable for some, according to Gray.

However, the influx of population means that more services will be needed to support these people, he said.

”People moving into the area want services,” said Gray. ”So, I think that’s going to create opportunities for more supportive businesses.”

As an economic developer, Gray said that he would love to see new shops open up to meet the needs of consumers moving into the area.

”One of the biggest things communities can do? is stopping economic leakage,” he said, explaining that economic leakage is when residents take their money and spend it in another community – such as the one-stop shopping trips to Huntsville.

”If new residents coming into the area are making efforts to spend locally where they can, it’s the ideal circumstances for enhanced community growth,” he said. ”Overall, the activity we’re seeing is very positive.”

In the Municipality of Whitestone, Coun. Joe Lamb said that he also had noticed an influx in new long-term residents.

”What’s happening in Whitestone, and I’m sure in other communities, is how many people are moving up,” said Lamb. ”They’re now recognizing that they don’t have to be in Toronto? they can work from home.”

According to Lamb, people can turn a profit on their homes down south and renovate cottages in Whitestone for year-round use.

”It’s amazing the number of people that are moving in,” he said, adding that residents working from home would be able to utilize Whitestone’s new library and technology centre when it opens.

But for every positive, the ripple effect should be considered.

Parry Sound district already has an existing housing shortage, according to Wendy Pegahmagabow, executive director of Parry Sound Harvest Share.

”The need and number of clients we have are going up,” said Pegahmagabow, mentioning that demographics may play a part as most people are seasonally employed.

In the event of rapid population growth, she said that the situation could create more dependency on emergency services like Parry Sound Harvest Share.

”There is already an existing housing shortage,” Pegahmagabow said. ”I think to the demands on our grocery stores and various essential services, it’s putting a lot of pressure on those businesses to meet the need as well as having the supplies for that larger population when we’re not used to that.”

Sarah Cooke is a Local Journalism Reporter with the Parry Sound North Star, and Almaguin News. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

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