Can you afford to live in Calgary

If you’re trying to pick between Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, go with the third option
March 17, 2017, 2:07pm

Over the last decade or so, Calgary has seen a significant spike in its population. Flanked by the Canadian Rockies and fueled by Alberta’s oil sands, Calgary has grown by 360,000 people since 2007, making it one of the fastest growing cities in Canada.

But what’s more interesting, is the demographic of people that have moved into Calgary — it is in fact, a very young city, with a median age of 36, meaning half the population is under 36, and half the population is over 36. Immigration into Calgary has been driven by young adults in their 20s and 30s seeking jobs related to the oil sector. This level of growth has unsurprisingly been accompanied by a rise in the cost of living.


When it comes to cost of living, Calgary is more expensive than cities like Montreal and Winnipeg, but cheaper than Toronto and Vancouver. Here’s what living in Calgary looks like to your bank account:

A couple of things stand out here. First of all, Alberta has some of the lowest personal tax brackets in the country. On an income of $45,000, your annual take home pay is just over $35,000 in Calgary, and $33,000 in Montreal (Quebec is the province with the highest personal tax in Canada).

Second, Calgary is a boom-bust city. That essentially means that unemployment and economic growth in the city is very much governed by oil prices. Alberta is now entering the third year of it’s oil recession, and according to data from Statistics Canada, from December 2014 to April 2016, the province saw 3853 jobs lost in oil and gas extraction, and a further 29,196 jobs in sectors that support the oil and gas industry.

This latter number is most relevant to Calgary as it is the headquarters for many of Canada’s big oil and gas companies, which means employment is focused on service sector jobs related to the oil sector.

Calgary’s bleak job situation over the last few years has led to a rise in home vacancy rates. As more people leave the city to either move back in with their families, or move out of the province altogether, the number of units available for rent on the market has steadily climbed. As of November 2016, Calgary’s vacancy rate was at a 25-year high, pushing rent prices down.

According to data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a two-bedroom was renting for almost $1400 in October 2015 — now, it’s not hard to find a two-bedroom in the $1100 to $1200 price range. If you’re in a job that isn’t dependent on the ups and downs of the oil sector (say, a government job), Calgary is actually a pretty affordable city to live in. Rents aren’t preposterous like they are in Toronto and Vancouver, and for that matter, owning a house isn’t out of reach for many Calgarians. Not to mention the fact that you’ll probably wake up to a pretty incredible view every morning, whatever part of the city you live in.

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