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Calgary population surge shows signs of slowing

DAWN WALTON

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

July 22, 2008 at 4:17 AM EDT

 

CALGARY — Calgary's stunning population growth continues, according to the city's latest census, but boomtown is starting to show signs of a slowdown.

 

Fewer people are pulling up stakes to move to the country's oil and gas capital, and the city's housing frenzy, which saw unprecedented bidding wars and zero vacancy rates, is a thing of the past, according to figures released yesterday.

 

But with the addition of 22,950 new residents in the 12 months preceding April of 2008, bringing the city's population to 1,042,892, it's too early to say the boom is going bust.

 

"Calgary still remains the trendsetter in the nation in terms of not only population growth, but those who are moving to our city," Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier told reporters yesterday.

Affordable housing is finally easier to find in Calgary, as supply starts to catch up with demand. Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail

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Affordable housing is finally easier to find in Calgary, as supply starts to catch up with demand. (Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail

 

The 2.3-per-cent population increase was fuelled by the birth of about 27 babies each day and about 34 people moving here daily.

 

The pace is still slightly higher than the 10-year average, but 2007-08 marked the second consecutive year population growth did not amount to what the mayor called a "phenomenal" year in 2005-06, when the city added 35,681 new residents.

 

In 2006, the city surpassed one million residents, two years earlier than projected.

 

But as more and more people were lured to Calgary amid an acute labour shortage, newcomers arrived to find apartments converted to condominiums and home prices out of reach for many first-time buyers.

 

Calgary's latest census figures show that affordable housing is finally easier to find.

 

"[The market] couldn't maintain the frantic and hectic pace through 2008," said Gerry Baxter, executive director of the Calgary Apartment Association. "The whole housing industry had gone crazy."

 

According to the census, the city's vacancy rate increased to more than 2.2 per cent in April, 2008, up from almost 1.5 per cent 12 months earlier. Meanwhile, the number of housing units - both existing residences and those under construction - jumped to 432,997 from 420,311.

 

"After such a record growth in the last few years, you're finally starting to see supply catch up with demand," Mr. Bronconnier said.

 

Still, Calgary's population growth continues at the fringes of the city where new suburbs are being built. The city faces about $7.5-billion to keep up with infrastructure demands over the next decade.

 

"I think growth is a good thing in a lot of ways as opposed to a bad thing," said David Watson, the city's general manager for planning, assessment and development, "The challenge is of course the farther out you go there's more and more requirements for infrastructure."

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080722.wcalgary22/BNStory/National/home

 

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