Once-sleepy North Delta blooms with younger, more diverse residents
By Tiffany Kwong
Valerie Cheng’s parents bought a townhouse in North Delta two years ago because that’s where they saw the best houses at the most attractive prices.
“We were really impressed at how nice and affordable they were,” said Cheng, who is a Grade 12 student at Sands Secondary School, which is less than a 10-minute walk away from the place her parents finally bought. Her younger sister goes to nearby Gray Elementary School.
Carolyn and Ricardo de Leon are another set of recent arrivals in Delta. The Filipino couple emigrated to Canada in 1993 and lived in North Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster before moving to their current residence in North Delta in 2008. “We were looking for a nice, peaceful, and quiet neighbourhood,” said Carolyn de Leon. “It is greener here and family-oriented – we love that.”
The Cheng and de Leon families — relatively young, with children, non-Caucasian — are two among a small wave of new residents attracted to North Delta who are changing the area’s image as a homogenous, Caucasian retirement community.
“It’s really wonderful to see a lot of young people back in the community,” said Delta Mayor Lois Jackson. “I don’t know for a per capita basis, but I’m sure we are getting more immigrant people and more cultures interspersed and I think that seems to be the way of the future.”
As of the 2006 census, the immigrant population made up 33 per cent of the total population in North Delta, growing to 17,180 people from 13,220 since 1996 – a 23 per cent increase.
Those immigrants are helping reverse Delta’s longstanding problem of population stagnation.
Delta’s population has crept along compared to other cities in the Lower Mainland. In the 2011 census, it increased by 3.2 per cent — still less than elsewhere but a remarkable change from its previous no-growth trend.
House prices spark new demand
Part of the demographic shift is related to housing costs.
House prices in Vancouver are more than double those in North Delta. The typical house price in Vancouver was $1.362 million for September 2012; in North Delta, it was $525,000.
One new development demonstrates the changing demographics. Delsom Estates, across the Fraser River from Richmond, is one of the largest in North Delta, with 380 townhouses and 175 detached homes sold in the last four years.
“I notice that there is a healthy number of immigrants. I believe that having a cultured and diverse community is important to the complexion of any community and I’m certain that as [Delsom] matures, the influences will start to take shape,” says Carlo Bustamante, a realtor who has been selling properties in the development.
“I see all varieties of new people here now,” said Subash Hanabe, who has owned the Millennium Market convenience store for six years, and has lived in North Delta for the past three years.
The Delsom development is adding more units in the next five years for a total of 602 townhouses and 70 apartments. Bustamante expects to see even more diversity.
Influx of immigrants impacts schools
The influx of immigrant families with children moving to North Delta is also changing the student demographic.
Statistics for the Delta school district show that the population of English language learners in Delta is increasing every year, to 1,738 students from 1,367 in the past four years.
At Sands Secondary School, there are 28 designated ELL students this year. Five years ago, there were eight.
ELL teacher Beth Fairchild said that her classes are growing and becoming more diverse.
Jackson said the growth makes her hopeful about the future. “North Delta is a really good place to raise children and families.”