Jul 23, 2014

Our Census

Another exciting Census report was just released for YYC, and we are the envy of other cities because of it. The 2014 Census indicates Calgary grew by 38,500 new residents, both through people moving here and apparently a small baby bump. We are fortunate to receive this information annually.  It helps us plan for the future.

Above: This clip from SNL featuring Christopher Walken and 
Tim Meadows is a hilarious way to introduce today's blog topic. 
SNL did a remake of this with Betty White a couple years ago 
as well. 

The number of people in the 25 - 34 cohort has rebounded after a drop in 2011, accounting for 27% of the growth since that time. This market is obviously a large driver for multi-unit buildings, a market that has rebounded since that time. At the same time, we saw a spike in aging Baby Boomers. The number of people over the age of 55 has increased by 29%. The increase in multi unit dwellings will help serve a growing demographic seeking to downsize.

As we drill down in the new population report there are some very interesting numbers that show the market is continuing to reflect The City goals in the Municipal Development Plan.

Growth in the Established Neighbourhoods

The MDP creates a targeted 50 / 50 split between population growth in established areas and Greenfield areas to the mid century point.  Good news - last year’s split was 36 percent of the new population in our developed areas and 64 percent in the developing areas.

We see growing parity in the type of new units. 46% of the new units recorded last year were single family and 54% were multi-family. The bulk of the multi units are in established areas. This is a good trend for many reasons.

  1. Greater housing diversity = more choice and greater affordability.
  2. We are seeing a big uptick in interest in rental housing judging by recent building permit applications, so important in a booming market as young adults continue to move to YYC for opportunity yet do not have the resources for a down payment to buy. It is also very important as we continue to see a rapid increase in our senior population, which means more folks looking to downsize.
  3. Many of our established neighbourhoods have fewer people living there today than a few decades ago as family size has decreased.  So the new multi-unit buildings bring more people back into these neighbourhoods, helping us realize the existing capacity of infrastructure that was built for a higher population.
  4. The multi unit buildings often result in a lower demand for city services.  In the new condo where I live, the city does not pick up the garbage. Rather, the condo owners pay for a private pickup.
  5. The tax revenue generated by multi-unit buildings is much greater than single-family.
This chart highlights the average tax yield, what people pay in property tax, per acre in Calgary in 2012.  It highlights the large difference between land use types where we see that the high rise mixed use building in YYC generates almost seven times the amount of tax revenue per acre.
 The increase in the number of units under construction downtown is a huge +242% increase. This is backed up by the big uptick in applications for large residential projects, most recently the large six tower residential project in Eau Claire.
Our department recently took in this 'B Lands' application for a six tower
residential project in Eau Claire.
The increase in the multi sector is also an indicator of shifting market demand, particularly that big increase in the units downtown under construction. This, coupled with the fact that Greenfield developers are not submitting subdivisions for all the available lots, means absorption numbers for new lots meet our land supply targets.

This infographic highlights the serviced land supply, land with city services ready to be subdivided.  There are large tracts of land that can accommodate population growth.

It is important to remember that unlike many cities, YYC funds the infrastructure up to the Greenfield lands then gets reimbursed but for only 50 percent of the cost.  This only happens when the lots are registered, reducing the incentive to register the lots.

It is also worth pointing out the 25 communities that make up the developing areas account for 58% of the population growth.  However, the total number of people added to Greenfields (22,281), is on pace with the ten year average of 21,700. This means the proportion of the total city growth is shrinking.


The census is full of good news and challenges. We see growth in infants meaning a future supply of students for the many schools planned for the city. Equally important is the growing developed area population and market demand for these areas.  It challenges us to think harder about improving the amenities in our built areas, considering bike lanes and new retail uses. 

And our current corridor study is looking for opportunities for mid-rise buildings where the market reasonably predicts where construction might happen.  Couple that with changes to the National Building Code, which might see frame construction to six floors, up from the current four, and lots more doors could open for diversifying our housing market and meeting the needs of our growing population.

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