Five Things Newcomers to Canada Need to Know About Housing in Alberta
Alberta is in the midst of an unprecedented population boom - fuelled in large part by immigration - that is having a direct impact on housing and rent prices.
So, we've come up with five things (below) that we think newcomers to Canada and international students need to know about housing in Alberta.
Alberta is popular and growing. According to annual population estimates released by Statistics Canada, Alberta was home to 4.7 million people as of July 1, 2023. That is slightly more than four percent higher than the same time last year. and adds up to an additional 184,400 people.
Here are the main and most populated cities in Alberta:
- Calgary. 1,019,942.
- Edmonton. 712,391.
- Fort McMurray. 76,000.
- Red Deer. Alberta. 73,593.
- Lethbridge. Alberta.70,617.
1 - RENT PRICES IN ALBERTA:
A one-bedroom in Edmonton goes for $1,279 and a two-bedroom for $1,578; a Lethbridge one-bedroom is $1,181 and a two-bedroom is $1,392.
According to Zumper, as of September 2023, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Red Deer was $1,195. The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Fort McMurray is $1,475.
However, while rents in Alberta are well below prices in B.C. or Ontario, they are on the rise. For example, the rent for a one-bedroom in Red Deer in September was up 17 percent over Sept. 2022. Calgary was up 21.6 percent over the same time period while rents in Edmonton had risen 18 percent. Lethbridge saw rents rise just 8 percent in a year.
This trend is expected to continue, according to Rentals.ca and Rentsync.
Average asking rents in Canada, according to the Rentals.ca report, increased 1.8 percent monthly in 2023 and 9.6 percent annually to reach another record national high of $2,117 in August.
Click on these Alberta cities for some of our current rental listings:
Additional listings for Alberta cities can be found at Mainstreet Equity Corp.
2 - VACANCY RATES IN ALBERTA:
The vacancy rate is the percentage of all vacant or unoccupied units available for rent in Alberta at a particular time. For renters in Alberta, a good vacancy rate (which usually but not always creates possibly lower rent prices for newcomers renting in Canada) is considered to be around three percent.
With immigration and interprovincial migration, the vacancy rate in Alberta is in decline, which unfortunately for newcomers means higher rent prices. In fact, the overall decline in the national vacancy rate reflects widespread tightening across all of Canada’s rental markets.
Migration into Alberta turned around sharply in 2022 and was a major driver of rental demand. This turnaround was the result of both higher interprovincial and international migration. During the pandemic, as economic opportunities shrank, more Canadians moved out than moved into Alberta.
For example, in Edmonton, with its improved labour market conditions, record net international migration and net interprovincial migration at a 10-year high, rental demand outpaced increases in supply. The vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments was 4.3 percent in October 2022, down from 7.3 percent in October 2021.
In Calgary, the overall vacancy rate dropped to 2.7 percent, the lowest since 2014. Again, record migration into Alberta largely supported rental demand, while increases in supply were not enough to balance it out.
And, according to Altus Group data, rental vacancy rates in Calgary have now dropped from 3.03 percent at the end of 2021, to below 1 percent in the first quarter of 2023.
Also, within a city's various neighbourhoods, vacancy rates can vary significantly so be sure to check that out.
So, newcomers should expect to encounter low (and falling) vacancy rates across Alberta.
3 - HOUSE PRICES IN ALBERTA:
For newcomers looking to buy a home, housing prices are also on the rise in Alberta, again driven by the population surge.
According to the WOWA Market Report Summary for August 2023
- Average home prices in Alberta have increased by 4 percent in a year to $445,190
- Calgary home prices increased by 8 percent year-over-year to $523,000
- Edmonton home prices increased by 7 percent year-over-year to $398,000
- Red Deer home prices increased by 3 percent year-over-year to $350,000
- Lethbridge home prices increased by 4 percent year-over-year to $349,000
- Medicine Hat home prices increased by 9 percent year-over-year to $330,000
- Fort McMurray home prices decreased by 1 percent year-over-year to $354,000
The Calgary Real Estate Board reported record-low housing inventory for the month of August this year with supply being listed at just over one month. Edmonton's supply of homes for sale is three months. There were a record 2,441 home sales in Calgary in September 2023.
Still, expert economists such as Rishi Sondhi of TD Bank point out that although affordability is deteriorating housing in Alberta remains relatively affordable compared to other Canadian regions.
For example, the average home price in Vancouver is $1,203,300, a 4.4 percent increase from September 2022. In Toronto, it is $1,119,428, a rise of 3.4 percent from August and a three percent increase from last September.
Alberta remains a housing bargain.
4 - STUDENT HOUSING IN ALBERTA:
Many of Alberta’s higher education institutions have dedicated housing programs in place for their students and some also have options for families to live on campus.
However, demand by students (domestic and international) across the province for rental accommodation is high and also outstrips demand.
For example, the University of Calgary residences were filled for September with a waiting list nearing 750. The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology is also full with about 100 students on a waiting list.
Student advocates are calling for more purpose-built student residences.
Be aware that on-campus housing options vary by school. So be sure to consult your institution for information about their residence programs, including application deadlines for international students.
If you choose to live off campus, your school can also help you find accommodation. But again, the competition for rental accommodations is fierce with prices rising each month and with vacancy rates low and shrinking.
Some students are opting for short-term rentals (Airbnb) as they continue their search for a longer-term rental.
Renting a room from an Alberta homeowner can also be an option for student
In fact, the University of Calgary has issued an appeal asking Alberta homeowners to consider renting out spare bedrooms. It's estimated by homeshare company Sparrow that there are 12 million unused bedrooms in Canada.
5 - LIVING IN ALBERTA:
When you find a place to rent in Alberta, you'll need a job/money to pay for it.
A recent Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey showed Alberta's jobless numbers in August 2023 dropping four-tenths of a percentage point to sit at 5.7 percent, compared to 6.1 the month before.
Over the past year, Alberta’s employment has grown by 4.1 percent. That's above the national average of 2.5 percent. The national unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in August.
Alberta's minimum wage sits at $15 per hour and the province has not announced plans to increase it.
According to Talent.com, The average salary in Alberta is $75,854 per year or $38.90 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $44,850 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $163,167 per year.
According to Salary Expert, the average salary for jobs in Alberta is $70,343 per year or an hourly rate of $34.
Here's a look at various jobs in Alberta and what they pay.
*Rentals for Newcomers used no AI-generated content in the writing of this story, and all sources are cited and credited where possible.
© Rentals for Newcomers 2023