Calgary is a city that is becoming increasingly difficult to live in when it comes to the cost of housing; even finding a place to rent is a challenge unto itself.
The Trudeau government has expanded its immigration targets which has not only brought more people to the city but also caused a spike in interprovincial migration.
The pandemic also played a role in people wanting to move to cities that can offer a larger living space, adding pressure to cities like Calgary.
In Calgary, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose by 14.5% in July compared to July 2022, a higher spike than seen in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. Citywide, rents have gone up by 25%, according to data from the City of Calgary. Rent for a two-bedroom place had previously only increased by 16.3% from 2012-2021.
In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment, one would have to earn $29.51 per hour which is almost double the minimum wage in Alberta.
According to the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), median home prices are also on the rise, up almost 16% from 2021, whereas they had only increased 28% over the previous 10 years.
The City of Calgary assembled a housing and affordability task force to gain insight into the problem and advise on policy recommendations. The task force discovered that over 80,000 households in Calgary are paying at least one third of their income on housing and that a tenth of residents are at risk of homelessness.
Those who earn less than $87,000 annually can only access about 40% of the city’s housing market, according to the task force.
StatsCan said that in 2020 the median individual income was $44,250 with 75% of residents earning under $80,000 per year.
The task force is recommending that the city increase and diversify housing supply, strengthen their ties with the housing sector and improve living conditions for those who rent.
In June, City Council rejected their recommendations leading to a large backlash from Calgary residents which forced them to reverse their initial decision. Calgary city council said they will review the recommendations again later this fall.
Calgary has received more than 100,00 new residents in the last 4 years and another 110,00 are expected to migrate in the coming 4 years, said the task force.
“If the federal government is bringing in half a million immigrants per year and we know that a healthy vacancy rate is what helps to keep supply-side housing in an affordable place, you better be building half a million houses,” said Coun. Courtney Walcott, whose ward consists of both established and inner city neighbourhoods.
Walcott said he would like to see a “wartime effort” approach to building new homes in Calgary.
“Purpose-built rentals will always be in demand because it is a housing style that is protected from the ebbs and flows of the economy. … Affordable rental is the backstop that is required for the entire economy to not lose housing as a basic need.” he said.
Alberta has received around 46,000 interprovincial migrants between 2022 and 2023, a record high, according to StatsCan.
Post-secondary students are also having trouble finding appropriate accommodations as well. At least 740 students are currently on a waitlist for on-campus housing at several of the city’s universities and colleges.
There are 50 students on a waitlist for on-campus housing at Mount Royal University, which Mark Keller, director of residences services for the university calls “unprecedented.”
“I think the main driving factor is the rental market in Calgary. I think a lot of students who would be looking to live off-campus are finding it harder to find accommodations off-campus, particularly affordable accommodations,” said Keller.
“Students often live at the edges of the city so that they can simply afford to be here, and they’ll bear the cost of transportation because they can at least divert that to a later point,” said Walcott.
“I want them to be able to live a high-quality life near those institutions, near the amenities, instead of having to drive as far as they can just to make sure they have a roof over their head.” he added.