Housing affordability: What’s causing the crisis?

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As Calgary's housing affordability crisis continues to escalate, it’s more important than ever to understand what’s happening and why. 

More and more concerned community members are taking action for housing affordability. This summer, our friends at the Calgary & District Labour Council (CDLC) hired a researcher to investigate Calgary’s housing affordability crisis in detail. The results have been compiled into an illuminating report that will be shared with Calgary City Council this fall. 

While it’s important for our elected officials to understand what’s causing the housing affordability crisis, it’s equally important for community members to be informed so we can advocate and hold City Council accountable. That’s why we’re making the full CDLC report available for download here

What does the report say?

In case you don’t want to read the whole 70 page report, here’s an executive summary to give you an overview of the CDLC’s findings:

Although Calgary’s economy appears to be strong, wages and salaries have not kept pace with inflation since the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, inflation is at an all time high and a growing number of Calgarians are becoming classified as low income. 

Since COVID, costs for housing materials and construction have increased significantly. Calgary’s population has been growing fast, and there isn’t enough housing to keep up. That scarcity combined with rising construction costs is causing prices to spike.

Calgarians are facing higher prices for nearly every commodity–including housing. Preliminary data by independent analysts shows that rents in Calgary are increasing faster than inflation. 

In Calgary, housing is considered affordable if a household pays 30% or less of its monthly income on shelter costs. By this definition, for the current housing market to be affordable for the average Calgarian, housing prices need to decrease by 33%. 

Families are quickly losing their ability to afford all types of housing in Calgary. In 2023, in order to afford a single-family house, a coupled family needs $23,000 more annual income than they did in 2021. Single parent families and individuals living alone cannot reasonably afford any type of housing. 

Increasing construction costs, pent-up housing demand from the pandemic, higher migration rates, worker shortages, and slow turnaround between residential investment and actual housing builds are piling up to create the housing affordability crisis we’re experiencing in Calgary right now. 

Who wrote the report?

The report’s author, Elier Villarreal Moncada, is a master’s student at the University of Calgary. Elier has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Alberta (2022) and he’s currently finishing his Master of Arts in Economics. 

Throughout his master’s program, Elier has reviewed extensive research on labour topics including minimum wages, unionization, returns to education, neighbourhood effects, immigration, and discrimination. Some of his grad school projects include a critical review of the new asset and liability management system that’s being proposed in Alberta, an overview of the economic conditions surrounding the Latin-American debt crisis, and a major research project that examines the causal effect of wildfires on the Canadian GDP and employment. 

Elier’s knowledge, experience, and analytical skills make him a well-rounded economic researcher and a qualified author for the CDLC’s report on the housing affordability crisis.  

What can we do about the housing crisis?

The CDLC’s research report makes it clear that Calgary needs more affordable housing and we need it fast. That’s why Calgary’s Future and our supporters are advocating for Calgary City Council to implement all of the recommendations made by the Housing Affordability Task Force

The housing crisis in Calgary is a multi-faceted problem that demands multi-faceted solutions. The Housing Affordability Task Force has provided a suite of well-rounded recommendations that will make a big difference if they’re implemented in a timely manner. 

For many years the City of Calgary has underinvested in affordable housing. Right now only 3% of households in Calgary are supported by affordable housing, as compared to 6% of households nationwide. Calgary’s playing catch up, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that City Council is doing enough to fix the crisis.

Together, let’s demand that the City of Calgary invest in more publicly funded, publicly delivered affordable housing. 


Ready to use your voice for more affordable housing in Calgary? Take action now

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