Chatham-Kent ranks 67th of Canada's top 85 cities on Point2Homes' list of Top Millennial Hot Spots in 2018. Canadian cities were ranked based on income, housing affordability, unemployment rate, life satisfaction, low crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education, and the percentage of millennials in the total population. Unexpectedly, the top three ranked cities weren't the largest in Canada and seven of the top ten best cities for millennials have a population under 500,000.
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent and Council have been focused on resident attraction and retention (RAR) in the community since 2011. The initial research work of the RAR area focused on consultations with key stakeholders, data gathering, feedback gathering through the 2012 CK Survey of Young People (15–39 years), and the analysis of data released by StatsCan. Census data for 2011 showed a 4.2% decline in Chatham-Kent's population from 2006–2011, with notable declines across each age cohort in the 15–44 year age range, and with a notable increase in the median age of the population to 43.8 years (41.2 years). National Household Survey (NHS) data provided background on Chatham-Kent's immigrant population, which also declined to 8.4% (from 10.1%) of the total population in the period 2006–2011. From this information and research into wider population trends, efforts began to target young people (aged 15-39), immigrants, and active retiree populations to address the decline, and continue through the CK Plan 2035. Making the list of top millennial hot spots in Canada demonstrates that these efforts are paying off.
The 2012 CK Survey of Young People identified that Chatham-Kent's young people are driven by employment when deciding where to locate and that 84% of respondents wished to remain connected to the community. The baCK to Chatham-Kent initiative was launched in response to this feedback. The campaign celebrates young people that have chosen to return to Chatham-Kent and encourages others to do so by promoting and connecting them to local opportunities.
The latest census numbers, from 2016, report a significant reduction in the total population decline (to -2%), as well as improvements in key age cohorts for young people and the immigrant population (8.5%). The 30-34 year old demographic increased between 2011 and 2016 by 5.4% (from -8.7%), and the rate of decline for those aged 20 – 24 (-8.3%) and 35 – 44 (-4%) have improved from -13.7% and -14.9% respectively.
These trends support a positive picture of Chatham-Kent's increasing attractiveness to young people and their desire to make Chatham-Kent home. "After living in the big city (Toronto), I couldn't wait to slow down the pace and return home to my family and friends. The cost of living in Chatham-Kent is also incredible. We purchased a 10 acre lake front property for the same price as our 850 square foot condo in Toronto," says Rosanna Mitchell, who moved baCK to Chatham-Kent.
"It's no surprise that Chatham-Kent would make this list," said Steve Carroll, President of the Chatham-Kent Association of REALTORS®. "The latest stats in the CKAR out of town home buyers survey show 30% of homes sold in CK are to people from outside the area. "Even though the average price for 2017 has risen 13%, we are still one of the most affordable places to live, and the word has gotten out".
In addition to an affordable housing market and declining unemployment rate, Chatham-Kent provides a high quality of life and work-life balance that young people look for when deciding where to live. The 2017 Chatham-Kent to the Power of Young People survey showcases that 15 – 39 year olds are happy living in Chatham-Kent, with 93% reporting a desire to remain connected to the community (compared to 84% in 2012).
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is increasing efforts to attract and retain residents by focusing on talent attraction to meet local labour market needs. Targeted attraction efforts have begun which support employers that have had difficulty filling labour market needs locally. These efforts will help to not only fill workforce needs but will contribute to addressing population decline.