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Hope new affordable housing will draw more people to Chilliwack

Rendering of Chilliwack revitalization plans. (Courtesy City of Chilliwack)

Chilliwack's mayor hopes plans for her city's downtown core will draw more people to live in her community

A geography associate professor says it's important to make sure new growth in Chilliwack happens at a sustainable pace

CHILLIWACK (NEWS 1130) – It’s not just about drawing more Metro Vancouver commuters to the Fraser Valley.

That’s what the mayor of Chilliwack is saying about plans to revitalize her city’s downtown core.

Sharon Gaetz says the goal is to make Chilliwack a place more people want to call home — without compromising the resources responsible for growth in the past.

“It really is preparing to have at least another 134 families move in to our area, so we’re limited by the kind of development we can have because of farmland,” she says. “Preserve the farmland. One in five jobs is directly related to agriculture, so there are limited areas for people to actually move into, so a lot of the development that we’re seeing is a re-development and in-fill development.”

She says Chilliwack is a community that boasts a lot of “natural amenities”, like Cultus Lake, mountains and rivers. “So we are seeing a lot of people relocate.”

Gaetz doesn’t see growth slowing down any time soon — but she admits it is slower than she would like to see.

“Downtowns have been very difficult for most communities to revitalize because they’re so complex. So much about downtown is about shopping patterns, and downtowns used to be the place where everybody went to buy their retail. So what we have determined in our consultations with economic advisers and real estate gurus is that we needed to redevelop the downtown to have a mix of retail and residences.”

An associate professor of geography at the University of the Fraser Valley — Cherie Enns — says it’s also important to make sure new growth happens at a sustainable pace.

“Focus on ways to create more employment opportunities, alternative forms of work and to really address the environmental issues that can come through increasing commuting.”

She adds another goal should be to draw more millenials to Chilliwack.

“They may be the ones that are beginning to have children. They’re the ones often seen as more innovative and creative.”

Enns says a recent study showed millennials consider Chilliwack and the Township of Langley one of Canada’s five worst cities to live.