Thursday, February 7, 2013

Alert Raised over latest Alberta Population boom.

January 25th, 2013 Calgary Herald.

People are once again moving to Alberta in droves, but the rapid growth has spawned fears the province could face the same infrastructure, labour and housing pains felt during the last economic boom.

“There is cause for concern,” said Bob Barss, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

“I don’t think the cause is insurmountable. Working with urban and rural Alberta, we can solve this population issue.”

Statistics Canada figures from the third quarter of 2012 show Alberta experienced the biggest net influx of interprovincial migration and immigration since 2006.

During the mid-2000s, a wave of new arrivals put a huge strain on the province — including schools, roads and health care.

Barss, head of an organization representing 69 counties and municipal districts, said provincial growth has once again put pressure on schools, hospital and housing in some areas. Infrastructure is also feeling the squeeze.

“There’s a huge deficit on water and wastewater,” Barss added.

In Calgary, Ald. Gord Lowe pointed to jam-packed CTrains, bumper-to-bumper traffic and growth pressure in the new suburbs as proof that municipal infrastructure is bursting at the seams.

“We’ve been playing catch up since 2001 when I first came on council,” said Calgary Ald. Gord Lowe. “We still have not fully caught up.”

And while he hesitated to use the word “boom” to describe current times, Lowe believes the city is in better shape than during the last “period of rigorous growth” because of the investments the city has made.

Nearly 14,000 more new arrivals came to the province than left in a three-month span ending Oct. 1, 2012.

Julien Berard-Chagnon, a demographer with Statistics Canada, attributed the surge to the province gaining back the people who moved away when times got tough during the global recession.
“A few years ago Alberta lost people to the great recession,” Berard-Chagnon said.
“Now they’re gaining back those people.”

Ben Brunnen, chief economist with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said it’s evident that “big numbers” are pouring into Alberta.

“Even for three-quarters, we’re ahead of every single other year except for 2006,” Brunnen said.
And he expects the steady flow of new arrivals to mirror economic growth in 2013.

The growth will be good news for business owners, but will also have an impact on the social services and the affordability of housing.

Brunnen warned social services could become stressed as more “people fall through the cracks” in a time of economic prosperity.

The apartment vacancy rate in the Calgary region averaged 1.3 per cent in October, down from 1.9 per cent last year, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s Fall Rental Market Survey released last month.

“The higher migration numbers have been supporting the rental market, and with that we’ve seen vacancy rates moving lower,” said Richard Cho, senior market analyst in Calgary for the CMHC.
The CMHC predicts the average house price shows a rise of 2.7 per cent to $422,000 in 2013. While it pales in comparison to the 38 per cent hike seen between 2005 and 2006, the average house price during the boom was $346,675.
With that in mind, Louise Gallagher wants to get the message out: Plan ahead before moving here.
Gallagher, spokeswoman for the Calgary Homeless Foundation, worries people are racing to the city without knowing where they’re going to live.

Finding a job can also be tough in the hot job market. Alberta has the highest job vacancy rate in the country, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently reported, and that is translating into close to 55,000 unfilled private sector jobs.

“The concern is that people will come and they’re not going to find a place they can afford,” Gallagher said.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths acknowledged tough choices are ahead as Premier Alison Redford has warned about a looming fiscal crunch.

“It’s different than last time because we’re not flush with revenue,” said Griffiths, referring to the last economic boom in the mid-2000s.

But Griffiths agrees the province needs to keep spending money on infrastructure to keep up with population growth.

“Our economy will suffer horribly by not investing in the infrastructure we’ll need for the next 40 years,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment