What Is It Like To Live In Kelowna, British Columbia?
Kelowna is the largest city in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and the 22nd largest metropolitan area in Canada. Located on the eastern shore of the pristine Okanagan Lake, Kelowna is a popular spot known for its warm summers and comfortable winters.
It’s not just great weather that makes Kelowna one of Canada’s most livable cities. 90% of residents surveyed by Canada Pulse report their city is a great place to live. There are ample things to do, beautiful sceneries to explore, a rich local culture and lots of business opportunities.
Brief History Of Kelowna
The name ‘Kelowna’ derives from an Okanagan word for ‘grizzly bear.’ First nation’s inhabitance began around 9,000 years ago when people used the land to hunt and gather. Many years later the Hudson Bay Company fur traders began coming across the Brigade Trail.
Arriving in 1859 was the first European to settle in the area, Father Charles M. Pandosy, a French Roman Catholic Oblate missionary. The Father Pandosy Mission is still standing in tribute to some of the original buildings constructed by the Oblate missionaries. In 1862, the area underwent significant growth because of the Cariboo Gold Rush. Fun fact: there’s still gold buried all over the Okanagan Valley.
It didn’t take long for people to see the rich value in the land thanks to its plentiful bunchgrass and easy accessibility to water, hence how it become a popular place to ranch cattle, and soon thereafter farm orchards.
Kelowna was officially incorporated on May 4, 1905. You can learn more about Kelowna’s rich history at the Okanagan Military Museum and the Okanagan Heritage Museum.
179,839 people reside in Kelowna, and it is ranked as the fastest-growing city in British Columbia. The majority of the population is between 15 and 65-years old, with just over 14% of the population 0-14 years, and 19% of the population 65 and older. The average age is 41.1 years while the average age in all of Canada is 37.6 years.
85.9% of the population reports English as their native language, 1.7% speaks only French, and 11.4% reported only speaking a non-official language.
The largest religious group in the area is Catholic, at 19.2% of the population, followed by Protestant (40.3%) and Christian (6.1%). There are other religious groups in the area, but individually they each make up less than 1% of the population.
Visible minorities make up 6.2% of the population, with the largest minority groups belonging to South Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, Filipino and other Asian, followed by Black, Latin American, multiple/other and Arab.
Local growth is mostly driven by people moving from other parts of Canada and BC, as opposed to high levels of international immigration. In fact, only 15.1% of the population is foreign-born.
Cost Of Living In Kelowna
Numbeo uses an index based on the cost of living in the extremely expensive city of New York. New York scores a 100 on the scale, anything above 100 is more expensive than New York and vice versa. Kelowna scores a 65.32 on this scale.
You can find fairly affordable places to rent. Interestingly, it’s the average cost of restaurants and groceries that increase the cost of living here.
The city average for renting a 900 square-foot furnished unit in an upper-class area of town is around $2,221, while monthly rent for a 900 square-foot furnished apartment in a normal area is closer to $1,593.
Utilities for one month will run you around $75, with Internet ranging close to $52.
Home Prices In Kelowna
During the first quarter of 2016, the average house price rose 6.1%. According to Royal LePage House Price Survey, that puts the average home price in Kelowna at $483,884.
The greatest growth is attributed to 2-story homes, which increased in cost by 13.1% year-over-year. The average 2-story home now costs around $631,242. The cost of a bungalow increased by 2.4%, averaging $472,519. This same time frame saw the median price of condominiums increase by 1.6% to $306,042.
The demand for housing in the area is driven by local buyers as well as people and many younger buyers from BC’s Lower Mainland seeking to escape the unaffordable prices in Vancouver. Due to high demand and a growing local economy, experts do not see any reason for rising home prices to slow anytime soon.
There are several main neighbourhoods scattered throughout Kelowna, each known for unique qualities.
Central City is considered the major business and commercial center, home to shopping centers, hotels and the Landmark building, as well as the Center for Arts and Technology Okanagan (CATO). Located in close proximity to downtown, this neighbourhood thrives with tourists, nightlife and a rich cultural center.
Dilworth Mountain is located at 2,000 feet elevation, slightly towering above the city. Here you’ll find middle-class and high-end homes, many with great views. A lot of development has taken place here in recent years, creating a suburban feel just minutes from Central City.
Downtown Kelowna is the heart of the city and where all of the tourists tend to flock. It sits right up next to the picturesque Okanagan Lake and includes two main routes where the majority of traffic and attractions are concentrated.
Glenmore is considered an affluent suburb in Glenmore Valley. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of housing development in the area, transforming the small-town feel to a more developed suburban neighbourhood.
Midtown is a popular shopping district amongst locals and is home to the largest shopping mall in the area, Orchard Park. Big-box stores dominate this section of Kelowna, leaving little greenery for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Mission, also known as Okanagan Mission, is located in the Lower Mainland near Abbotsford. This section of town is considered completely separate from downtown, but it offers a lively commercial district that is similar in feel and style. There are some very high-end homes with spectacular views of the city that cost well over one million dollars located in this area.
Rutland is the largest neighbourhood in Kelowna and for the most part offers some of the most affordable home prices. Rutland was its own town until it became incorporated with Kelowna in 1973. As a result of its independent origins, it has a rich commercial center. Gentrification efforts have been in the works for a good amount of time, with new parks, refurbished schools, widened roads and other improvements continually taking place.
Kelowna is known as the main marketing and distribution center within the Okanagan Valley. Most noteworthy are tree fruit industries and the light industrial sector, which compete on an international level.
Local industries include forestry and the manufacturing of boats, plastics, body armour, oil field equipment, and fibreglass. Recent growth has also propelled the technology sector including aerospace development and service.
There are many private and public schools in Kelowna, which vary by neighbourhood. Kelowna and West Kelowna Elementary Schools were both recognized as one of the top-ranking schools in British Columbia. The Kelowna’s Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School earned a perfect 10.
Kelowna is home to the University of British Columbia Okanagan, Okanagan University College and Okanagan College.
Kelowna Crime Rates
Kelowna has higher crime rates than other cities in British Columbia, but rates have been declining in recent years. The overall level of crime is ranked at a 55.36, which is considered moderate. The largest issues relate to dealing and use of drugs (largely marijuana) as well as property crimes.
Assault and armed robbery remain moderate, while corruption and bribery are ranked as very low. Most crime in the region is related to non-violent property crime and is continually declining.
Despite crime levels, residents have a moderately low fear of having their homes broken into or being mugged, robbed or assaulted in any way.
The city is considered very safe to walk alone during daylight, but like many urban areas, it’s not as safe to walk alone at night.
What Is There To Do In Kelowna?
Kelowna offers everything you could want from a major city, including fine dining, great shopping, sports and lots of culture. You only have to drive 10-minutes outside of downtown to enjoy lush vineyards and gorgeous natural scenery.
Golfers delight in the abundance of award-winning courses, and every summer locals and tourists flock to Okanagan Lake to go for a cooling swim and partake in boating or fishing activities.
In the winter the mountains offer the perfect escape for skiers, and in the summer these same mountains offer great hiking trails and exceptional views worth sweating for.
If you’re a frequent traveller, the local Kelowna international airport is ranked one of the top 10 airports in all of Canada.
One of the largest issues residents face relates to an overabundance of traffic. The city ranks as the most dependent on cars in all of Canada with the second highest per-capita road transportation carbon footprint in British Columbia. New roads continue to be added with aim of reducing traffic.
There are plenty of provincial parks, pine forests, vineyards, mountains and orchards to explore. If you love wine, you’ll enjoy the fact there are over 20 local vineyards offering exquisite tours and tastings.
Arts, Culture & Nightlife In Kelowna
The downtown area has a waterfront City Park and a lakeside cultural district. An entire 6-blocks is heavily concentrated with a vibrant arts community. The city is ripe with art studios, travelling exhibits, and the popular Kelowna Art Gallery. There are always productions, plays and performances put on at the Kelowna Community Theater and other theaters in the area.
Thanks to the lively downtown district, Kelowna comes to life at night with numerous nightclubs, restaurants, bars and lounges.
Find Your Picture Perfect Home In Kelowna
Is your dream home located in the serene mountains with a great view, or in the middle of downtown where you can feel the city’s pulse just outside your window? Regardless of what type of neighbourhood feels right to you, Kelowna has something to offer everyone.
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