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Pros and Cons of Moving to Calgary in 2024

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Calgary is Alberta’s largest city and the third-biggest in Canada. It’s a city with a rich culture and history, brimming with diverse work opportunities, exciting outdoor activities, thriving nightlife, and more. In 2022, the Global Livability Index ranked Calgary as the third-best city to live in the world.

If you’ve been pondering about moving to Calgary, it’s vital to learn as much about the city as possible to ensure it’s a good fit for your lifestyle, needs, and budget.

Let’s dig in and see what Calgary has to offer and whether it’s a place worth calling home.

Moving to Calgary: key points to consider

Is Calgary a good place to live? That depends on how you envision your ideal city. Here are some crucial points to consider before packing up.

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Population. More than 1.4 million (1.6 million, if you include the entire metropolitan area) live in Calgary. The city’s population has experienced rapid growth during the last two decades, with the trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Calgary’s growth, along with vast employment opportunities, quality healthcare and education, and high living standards continually attract immigrants. And Canadians eager to escape the excessive housing and living costs in cities like Vancouver and Toronto are also heading to Alberta in droves.

Unemployment rate. Calgary has high unemployment rates compared with Canada’s other major cities. Since 2020, the city’s unemployment rate has ranged from 6.20% to 11.51%. In March 2023, it was 6.7%, higher than the national average of 5.13%. Some economists blame the stubbornly high jobless rate on a skills gap — employers have positions available, but there are few workers with the skills to fill them.

Average home price. If you’re considering moving to Calgary, home prices are among the most important things to assess. According to data from the Calgary Real Estate Board, as of April 2023, the average price of a Calgary home (all property types) is $549,523, up from $532,310 a year ago. Be sure to account for closing costs, mortgage insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Median income. According to Statistics Canada, Calgary’s median household income was $128,800 in 2021, which translates to $111,600 after tax.

Pros of living in Calgary

Here are some of the top reasons why Calgary is a great Canadian city to live in.

High earning potential

Calgary is one of Canada’s wealthiest cities, with a median after-tax family household income of $111,600. This figure is higher than other major Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, with median after-tax incomes of $103,800, $101,500, and $93,700, respectively.

When you combine a lucrative salary with lower living costs compared with cities like Toronto, Calgary may be much easier on your wallet.

Low sales tax

The lack of a provincial sales tax is a standout perk of living in Calgary. As a Calgary resident, you must only contend with a 5% federal sales tax, which can save you a pretty penny over the long run.

In comparison, you’d have to pay a 7% provincial sales tax if you lived in British Columbia and a 13% harmonized sales tax if you opted to settle in Ontario.

Excellent employment opportunities

Whether you’re a young professional or a passionate entrepreneur, living in Calgary can help boost your career.

Known as an energy city, Calgary boasts the headquarters of more than 100 of Canada’s largest companies across various industries. Prominent employers include Suncor Energy, Enbridge, Western Financial Group, Canadian Pacific Railway, and Shaw Communication.

While the oil and gas industry dominates in Calgary, the city is also cultivating a reputation as a thriving technology hub, with giants like Amazon and IBM setting up shop in the city.

The aerospace, agribusiness, financial services, and life sciences are also significant sectors. And if you’re the creative type, you’ll be pleased to know Calgary is home to a flourishing film industry.

Convenient and affordable public transportation

Don’t plan on purchasing a car while living in Calgary? That’s not a problem, as the city offers an accessible, reliable, and affordable public transportation system to help you get around.

The cash fare for a one-time ticket is $3.60, and monthly adult passes cost $112.

It includes a light railway called the C-train, which runs on electricity from wind farms, and a robust network of buses and trains. There are plenty of park-n-ride locations for you to park your car. And you can ride the C-train for free in parts of the city centre.

Abundance of activities, attractions, and entertainment

One of the reasons Calgary is touted as one of Canada’s most livable cities is there’s no shortage of fun and exciting things to do and see.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, visiting Canada Olympic Park is a no-brainer. This massive facility offers a wide range of winter and summer activities, including snowboarding, skating, skiing, and mountain biking.

Some other attractions and events worth checking out are the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Telus Spark science centre, and Calgary International Film Festival. And, of course, you don’t want to miss the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day event billed as” The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

Calgary is a less-than-two-hour drive from the Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park, both of which offer a wealth of activities like skiing, mountain climbing, or just hiking to admire the stunning landscapes.

Things to do in downtown Calgary

If you want to have fun within the city limits, you can take part in the vibrant nightlife.

Downtown Calgary is teeming with restaurants, bars, and clubs for you and your friends to enjoy a night out.

If that’s not your thing, you can visit the Calgary Farmer’s Market, watch a Flames game at the Saddledome, go biking down the Bow River Pathway, or take a relaxing stroll through Prince Island Park.

A slew of exciting annual events, including the Calgary International Beerfest, Calgary Fringe Festival, the High Performance Rodeo, and the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, also take place in the downtown core.

Cons of living in Calgary

Despite Calgary’s perks, it’s essential to consider the drawbacks of living in Alberta’s most populous city, too.

High real estate prices

While Calgary’s real estate prices are low compared to a major Canadian city like Toronto, home affordability is still an issue for many residents.

The average price of a detached home is about $730,000 in April 2023. In contrast, if you were to move just a few hours north to Edmonton, you’d find the average detached home price is about $485,000.

The average rent in Calgary is also pricey, at nearly $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to a March 2023 report from Rentals.ca.

As a result, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or renter, you’ll need to dedicate some time and effort to finding a place to live at a reasonable price.

Traffic congestion

Another downside to Calgary is the traffic jams. While other Canadian cities, like Vancouver, fare worse in this area, you can still anticipate tedious commutes from time to time.

In 2022, for instance, Calgary residents spent about 110 hours in traffic.

Crowded schools

Overcrowding in schools has been a problem in Calgary for a while. The booming city has, unfortunately, failed to keep pace with school construction and development to accommodate the surge in students. There’s a shortage of teachers, too, which has led to classrooms crammed with students.

So, if you’re a parent, you may face hurdles in enrolling your children in a school in your vicinity. You may have to opt for a school farther away, leading to increased travel time and costs.

Frosty weather

Being a Prairie city, Calgary is home to bitterly cold winters (though quite sunny as well). Snowfall occurs for about 86 days of the year, which can make for hazardous driving conditions.

However, the warm Chinook wind that originates from the Pacific Ocean and blows east from the Rocky Mountains provides some relief from the frigid winter air.

Frequently asked questions

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