Calgary’s population spikes by 29,000 people in one year

Calgary’s population is now growing at the same pace as Houston — the oil capital of Texas and one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

While Houston has nearly double the Stampede city’s population, Calgary added nearly as many people in a two-year span — 61,370 versus 58,616.

New census data released Thursday suggests Calgary is in the midst of its second-biggest spike in two decades.

Some 29,327 new residents were recorded in a civic tally conducted between April 2012 and April 2013. The city’s population has swelled to 1,149,552 — a jump of 2.6 per cent.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate Calgary is adding people at a faster clip than many major American cities.

A burgeoning population is good for the city economically but brings challenges as well, cautioned Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“We’re not quite where we were in the height of the last boom, but we’re actually not that far,” he told reporters Thursday.

“So the city continues to grow and with that comes a lot of amazing benefits, but of course a lot of real pressures.”

The fastest growing community in Calgary is Evanston — a newly built neighbourhood on the northern edge of the city — followed by Auburn Bay in the deep south and nearby Cranston.

But the numbers also suggest some meaningful shifts, with several older communities seeing small upticks in population.

A “doughnut” of neighbourhoods built between 1920 and 2000 ring the inner city and historically see stagnant growth. However, many are experiencing a welcome influx of young families to replenish the population.

An interesting case in point is Tuxedo Park, a neighbourhood in the northeast that saw a jump of 7.2 per cent over the past year.

Indeed, a third of the city’s total growth occurred in established communities, with about 10,000 people choosing to call these areas home.

It’s a departure from previous years — and an encouraging trend because it allows the city to make use of existing infrastructure rather than allocate taxpayer funds for new schools, libraries and police, Nenshi said.

“We were slowly hollowing the city out and pushing people into new neighbourhoods in the fringe. It was nothing like Detroit — nothing crazy — but that trend has largely stabilized and is beginning to reverse itself,” he noted.

People are flocking to Calgary — but the mayor insists the situation is different from the boom in 2005, when businesses had trouble retaining workers and newcomers struggled to find affordable places to live.

“We are now better equipped to handle the population,” Nenshi said. “The city might have been surprised by the mid-2000 boom …(but) I think we’re at the point where the infrastructure can handle the population we have.”

University of Calgary sociology professor Kevin McQuillan agrees.

The city’s growth rate of 2.6 per cent puts it at the high end when compared to other North American urban centres, but it doesn’t raise immediate concerns, he said.

“It puts pressure on the city, but I don’t think we’re at the stage where we would call it a real ‘boom’ that could lead to a crisis in terms of the availability of housing or services,” McQuillan said.

It remains uncertain how the June flood will affect the city’s increasingly tight vacancy rates. The tough housing market is expected to intensify when students return to school in the fall. City council is now looking at ways to accelerate the rental market to accommodate displaced apartment dwellers in areas such as Mission.

“We need to prioritize housing that matches the needs of the market,” Nenshi said. “It’s been a problem for some time.”

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Calgary realtors see ‘crazy’ rush of home buyers after flood

Last month’s record floods are driving up demand for homes as both displaced millionaires from posh neighbourhoods that were flooded and former renters jump into the market, Calgary realtors say.

“What I’ve been seeing is a crazy amount of activity, as far as buyers go,” said Thomas Keeper of Tink International Real Estate.

Wealthy neighbourhoods along the Elbow River were among the areas hardest hit by the flooding, prompting some homeowners, whose properties will take at least several months to repair, to buy homes elsewhere in the meantime.

As a result, multimillion dollar homes that would ordinarily take a year to sell are being snapped up for about 10 per cent more than they normally would within a matter of weeks, Keeper said.

And Keeper said that’s had a ripple effect throughout the city, as buyers have been forced to look further afield to find properties in their price range.

Luxury home sales booming in Calgary

“What it does is it bumps buyers down,” he said, adding a newly listed home in the far reaches of Calgary’s southern suburbs garnered three offers over the weekend.

Although the values of homes in flood-hit areas will likely drop, Keeper said he expects prices across the city to rise and stay high for the foreseeable future.

Re/Max associate Mike Hornby said July is usually a quiet month — but not this year.

“I have just been steady the entire time,” he said. “It’s been relentless.”

He said another house in Calgary’s southern suburbs had 19 showings in eight days something that is normally unheard of in July.

Hornby said Calgarians who would ordinarily be looking to rent are being pushed into buying.

“The rental market is a huge concern. Our vacancy rate was already quite tight to begin with and now it’s literally non-existent,” he said.

“People have been panicking. I definitely think it’s spurred people on to make a decision quicker.”

Calgarians are eager to buy property not necessarily because they’ve been directly displaced by the flooding themselves, but because they foresee a tighter market ahead generally, Hornby added.

Mike Leibel, associate broker at CIR Realty, said he’s been seeing some transactions delayed because of the flooding, as appraisers take stock of the disaster.

Leibel said he expects the flood to have a relatively short-term impact on property values in flood-affected zones.

He recalled it took a relatively short time to return to normal after condo building on the west side of downtown beside the Bow River flooded a few years ago.

“That didn’t seem to affect the property values in that particular building. The unit holders were inconvenienced for a couple of weeks before they had a chance to pump out the parkades,” he said.

“It seems if the buyers want the location, which is downtown, they’re willing to take the risk for the most part.”

Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist at the Calgary Real Estate Board, said whether home values in flooded areas drop may depend on whether the city builds berms or dikes to keep the water out next time the rivers spill their banks.

“In a lot of those centres when they have done this type of work, valuation has fully recovered,” she said of past cases involving flood prone cities.

Lurie said the housing market was tight before the floods — both for renters and buyers. Now, interest may be piqued in bedroom communities outside of Calgary, such as Airdrie to the north.

“They’re going to have to start considering other areas, where they may not have considered renting before. They’ll have to see what other things they can rent,” she said.

“Some of those renters are going to consider ownership. Otherwise, they’re going to consider what’s available to rent in the suburbs.”

© Copyright (c) Calgary Herald