Quality of life, low housing costs drive record in-migration
Choosing Calgary: Active communities and affordable homes attract those seeking a move.
Fuelled by an affordable cost of housing and a stellar lifestyle, in-migration into Alberta and, in particular, Calgary and area is reaching record highs. Recent Statistics Canada numbers show that in the first quarter of 2023, Alberta’s population experienced a net increase of 51,718 people; that’s up 207 per cent from the same quarter in 2022.
Within the province, Calgary and area are destinations that are on the international radar. For the past 15 years, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper, has ranked Calgary as one of the top 10 liveable cities in the world. And 2023 was no exception — Calgary tied with Geneva for seventh place and received top marks for culture, environment and education.
“It’s really the place that people want to come to and create a life,” says Steven Da Costa, who moved to Calgary with his wife in the spring of 2023 from Cambridge, Ont.
“The motivating factor for us was really being able to sell our home in Cambridge at a good price, buy something much cheaper in Calgary and bank quite a bit of money, accelerating the retirement process.”
Da Costa and his wife, Janice, purchased a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 975-square-foot condominium in Seton, in a project spearheaded by Logel Homes. Da Costa, who is an intensive care nurse, says the move was spurred on by family members who had ventured west a few years ago.
“I have a cousin who has been out here for 10 years and he recommended the south and Seton to us, and now that we are here, we really like it; it was a great choice.”
Making the transition west was a family affair; two of Da Costa’s grown children have joined them in Calgary. In addition, his parents, who are from Toronto, also made the move, selling their big home and purchasing a two-bedroom condominium in the same complex, Seton West.
Da Costa’s daughter, who is 28 and has been in Calgary for three months, just purchased her first home, a one-bedroom condominium in the southeast community of Wolf Willow in the Bow 360, a new build condominium project by Cove Properties. Her parents helped out with the down payment and she’ll be living with them, saving money until she takes possession in the spring of 2024.
“She would never have had this opportunity in Ontario; a condo there would have been so much more money and out of her price range,” says Da Costa, but he notes that he sees the Calgary real estate market beginning to take on characteristics of Ontario’s.
“When we started looking for a place for our daughter, our real estate agent took us to several resale condominiums, where we were seeing multiple bids on condos, which were priced low to generate interest. I said to the agent: ‘This is a Toronto or Vancouver thing,’ and she said that they had never seen this in the Calgary market,” says Da Costa.
According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, new listings in Calgary are sitting at their lowest levels in nearly two decades — June’s inventory was 3,458 units with a supply of just over one month, which places greater upward pressure on home prices. The month of June saw the total benchmark price reach $564,700, up four per cent from last year.
Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB’s chief economist, says housing demand in Calgary and area remains robust due to increased migration and a healthy labour market — two factors that are assisting in offsetting the impact of increased lending rates.
“Although we have seen some recent improvements in new listings, particularly for apartment condominiums, it is not enough to cause any substantial change from the low inventory situation in our city. While new home starts are on the rise, it will take time to observe their impact on supply,” says Lurie.
In May 2023, Alberta reported 3,141 housing starts, almost one quarter of Canada’s total (15,899) for that month. A housing start is defined as the beginning of construction work on a building, usually when the concrete has been poured. Alberta’s May numbers include 1,047 single-family dwellings, 297 semi-detached, 465 row and 1,332 apartment-style homes.
“The crazy resale market is really affecting the new build market in a good way,” says Tim Logel, president at Logel Homes, the builder of Seton West, noting that the company has had its best year to date in sales in over 20 years.
International net migration continues to bump up growth — 35,932 out-of-country residents moved to Alberta from Jan. 1 through to March 31, while 31,031 made the trek from other Canadian provinces, in particular Ontario and British Columbia.
“People need a place to live. The cost to rent is really high. So, people look at buying condos. It’s a good investment and people are connecting to the value of Calgary in terms of liveability,” says Logel, noting that those from out of province really appreciate Calgary’s master-planned communities, with their schools, amenities and walking paths.
That’s something that Da Costa has noticed, now that he and his family are settled in.
“We really love how active all of the communities are — we do a lot of walking on the paved trails. People are much more active here and also very friendly,” he says, noting that he’s made the move to working part-time in order to enjoy life and to head out on adventures exploring Alberta.
Emily Smith, manager of marketing and customer care at Qualico Communities, says that 40 per cent of the developer’s Calgary and area sales are coming from out-of-province buyers in B.C. and Ontario, but that the company, which is in the process of developing more than a dozen new communities in Calgary and area, is taking measures to offset the pressure.
“The resale market is really tight right now, which in turn tightens the new home market, but we have ramped up our lot production to provide the builders as many lots as we can. We have an ongoing belief that the Calgary area is an amazing place to live and that everyone deserves a home that they can afford. We are excited to see so many more people moving to Alberta again and discovering this for themselves,” says Smith.
Certainly, the Da Costa family has no regrets.
“All in all, it was the right move. It’s allowed us to have an easier lifestyle, different adventures and the security of extra money in the bank,” says Steven Da Costa.