Community Social Assessments

2023 Community Social Assessment

The CSA is produced every five years, with Banff’s first being published in late 2006. This is the fourth version and the second iteration of the assessment timed to coincide with the release of the federal census data. 

The 2023 Community Social Assessment (CSA) report is now available

It is based on community engagement conducted across a wide spectrum of Banff residents and data compiled through 2023. It aims to capture a moment in time of a community’s social well-being; its strengths and opportunities, along with its issues and challenges. 

The Community Social Assessment helps determine how best to direct support and close existing gaps. It  serves as an incentive to encourage new thinking and action to respond to opportunities and issues alike. To support community well-being, it is crucial to have a detailed understanding of the social picture of one's community.

The past three assessments have helped to guide decisions related to policy, programs and services in the municipality, and community at large and have created a baseline to analyze change in the community over time. It is anticipated that this report will initiate a series of actions that will benefit the community.

Highlights of the 2023 Community Social Assessment

Residents reported the same top three community strengths as seen in the 2018 Community Social Assessment:

  • Small Town Community Feel
  • Appreciation of Nature & Environmental Stewardship
  • Quality and Variety of Services, Amenities & Programs 

Top community challenge themes reported by residents in the 2023 Community Social Assessment:

  • Housing
  • Tourism Impacts
  • Cost of Living
  • Community Connectedness

Notable Findings: 

“Banffites” love the community

The majority of Banff residents have immense appreciation for the small-town feel, neighborliness, and spoke highly of the commitment to “taking care of each other” during difficult times. The unique characteristics of the community and its surrounding environment are of primary value and attraction for new and long term residents. However, the COVID- 19 pandemic also left some residents feeling isolated and out of touch and they are looking for opportunities to reconnect.

Newcomers are acclimatizing to the weather and living alongside wildlife

Longer term residents originally from Global South countries are among some of the proudest residents in Banff and are eager to share the outdoor experience with friends and family. This is in contrast to the 2018 Community Social Assessment, when this group shared they were not keen on outdoor winter activities and expressed fear of wildlife interactions.

The community has a greater understanding of the Town’s role to support tourism.

Though residents did not specifically mention the Banff’s Municipal Incorporation Agreement with the federal government, detailing its purpose in being a service centre for the visitors of Banff National Park, many acknowledged that without tourists the town of Banff would not exist. This is a significant change from the 2018 CSA where residents questioned why there was such a focus on tourism.

Banff’s population has increased between 2016 and 2021.

The Town of Banff had a population of 8,305 in 2021, representing an increase in population of 5.8% from the last federal census in 2016. Close to one third of Banff’s population has turned over in the last five years so while during the COVID-19 pandemic people did leave, they were replaced by others. 

Popluation change

Banff’s male population has increased.

54% of Banff’s population was male as compared to 52% in 2016. This is unlike the rest of Alberta and Canada where the gender split is 50/50. This aligns with anecdotal feedback that there has been an increased visibility of male participation in community-based activities. Additionally, it was predominantly males who advocated for sober living pursuits and more support for the arts and culture scene.

Gender

Banff continues to attract young adults.

At 13% of the total population, residents aged 25 – 29 are the largest five-year age cohort in Banff. At 33% of the population, Banff continues to have a greater percentage of residents aged 20-34 than the rest of the province. This trend dates back to 1991 and underscores the critical importance of young adult programming to community wellbeing as well as the need for regular and consistent community messaging for this demographic that continually arrives.

Age char.

A rise in the proportion of Banff’s population aged 50 years and over

Individuals aged 50-64 constitute 18% of the population while those aged 65 and older make up 12%. It is worth noting that the number of seniors in Banff is lower than in other communities with the exception Whistler. The Age Friendly consultations held in 2022 provide evidence that the 50+ demographic is looking to age in place in Banff and hence the municipality’s commitment to supporting the Age Friendly Action Plan is in alignment with meeting the needs of older adults.

There are notably less families with children living in Banff

The federal census statistics show there has been a substantial decline in two parent families with children from 47% in 2016 to 39% in 2023. While families said Banff is a family friendly community, and children speak fondly of their schools and abundance of activities, the lack of appropriate, affordable housing and childcare challenges are reported as a barrier to staying in the community. 

Couple families 2

Tourism impacts in Banff

Residents expressed that without a sustainable tourism management plan they are concerned for the impact tourism has on their quality of life, health and overall community wellbeing. There is an expectation that all the National Park parties work together to create a plan that balances resident quality of life with the visitor experience. 

Lower income residents earned more over the past five years however Banff has the lowest median income across comparable communities.

There was a significant decrease in the number of residents earning less than $20,000 per year dropping from 28% in 2016 to 17% in 2021. It appears that the provision of COVID-19 benefits may have contributed to these decreases. However, Banff ranks lowest in individual and family median incomes among comparable communities, at $40,950 and $99,750 per year respectively. Coupled with the increase in housing and food costs, challenges in finding affordable childcare and limited access to essential goods, the cost of living remains a struggle for many residents.

Individual median

Housing affordability, availability and instability poses the greatest challenge for residents.

Even with the introduction of subsidized housing units, such as those at the YWCA and Ti’Nu, the vacancy rate remains close to zero and purchasing a home sits at the severally unaffordable metric requiring 8.2 times a household income. Residents reported housing insecurity as a leading cause of mental health stress and the lack of appropriate and affordable options as reasons for leaving the community. 

Banff residents are moving towards “car free living”.

While driving to work is still the top method of commuting in 2021, walking is second, followed by Roam transit and biking. These encouraging trends support resident appeals for increased local and regional bus routes.

Mode of transportation

Individuals not born in Canada make up 37% of Banff’s population.

Multiculturalism is now considered mainstream in Banff unlike in 2013 when there was concern regarding whether the appropriate resources were in place and in 2018 when diversity was noted as an asset. Notably, approximately 40% of participants in the check in stage were permanent and non-permanent residents. More support for community wide ethnocultural gatherings and an increased need for access to culturally appropriate food were popular asks during the consultations.

Foregin born residents

Next Steps


The Community Social Assessment team will be presenting the CSA findings back to the community – including residents, grassroots and formalized groups and organizations and agencies serving Banff.

A summary document highlighting the primary findings will be produced and distributed community wide. 

Support will be provided for groups and organizations who are working to address community needs, as identified in the 2023 CSA. 

Efforts will be made to track and capture community impacts and changes related to CSA goals for reporting purposes.  

  1. In closing we would like to extend a huge thank you to all community members who participated. It is hoped that positive changes will occur as a result of this collective and collaborative work

CSA Report Presentations

Public CSA presentation dates are seen below. 

  • Family Resource Network, following the Running Rascals program
    • Drop-in, February 10, 11:45p.m.-1:45p.m. 
    • Pioneer Room, Catharine Robb Whyte Building (101 Bear Street)
    • Refreshments provided
  • Public Presentation
    • Free, registered event, March 18, 5:00p.m.- 7:00p.m. at the 
    • Pioneer Room, Catharine Robb Whyte Building (101 Bear Street)
    • Light snacks and refreshments provided
    • To register, please call 403.762.1251 or email fcss@banff.ca
  • Senior’s Birthday Party
    • Drop-in, Friday, March 29, 2p.m.-3p.m.
    • Pioneer Room, Catharine Robb Whyte Building (101 Bear Street)
    • Light snack and refreshments provided

If your group or organization would like a member of the Community Social Assessment team to present the report findings please email fcss@banff.ca.

Infographic