Princeton’s population decreases

The number of people living in Princeton dropped by two per cent, despite the mine opening last year.

Princeton’s population dropped two per cent from 2006 to 2011.

There were 2,724 people living in Princeton in 2011, compared to 2,780 in 2006, according to Statistics Canada information released last week.

This population decrease came as a surprise to many Princeton residents who thought the opening of Copper Mountain Mine would bring more people to town.

Mayor Fred Thomas said it’s difficult to tell exactly why Princeton’s population dropped, but it may have to do with the rising cost of housing in the area.

Real estate agents in Princeton said the cost of houses jumped when the mine opened because homeowners thought they could get more money for their property.

But the housing boom didn’t pay off, and many properties are still waiting to be sold. Many perspective Princeton residents simply found the houses too expensive.

“Many [mine workers] need houses in the range of $175,000 to $225,000, and all they found were houses on sale over $300,000,” Thomas said.

Hospital emergency room closures could have also scared off potential Princeton residents.

In search of better medical coverage, the workers settled in neighbouring communities, Thomas said.

“We lost out on the natural growth that should have occurred with the mine opening. Getting that growth back is going to be extremely difficult and time consuming.”

Princeton also did not have enough developed land  that people could build affordable houses on, Thomas said.

The cost of rentals in town also skyrocketed when the mine was being built. Rates have since dropped back down.

“Naturally, people were trying to maximize their returns,” Thomas said.

Other communities near Princeton also saw population decreases.

Area H saw a 16 per cent drop in population, from 2,105 people in 2006 to 1,768 in 2011. Most people living in Area H don’t stay there year round.

There are 1,860 private dwellings, but only 844 are lived in by permanent residents.

Four people left Hedley, causing the community’s count to decrease by two per cent to 252 people.