Friday, October 31, 2014

What can we do this Weekend in Calgary


It has been a fun ride leading up to the big night of Halloween. There were pumpkin patches to visit, scares from a wide variety of venues, plays, special events at many of the family oriented parks and attractions around town and of course plenty of time to come up with that perfect costume for trick or treating.

Now November is upon us and it is a more sombre month as we remember the men and women who lost their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. This Remembrance Day and indeed November will be extra important as we also remember the tragedy that took place in Ottawa just last month. With that in mind, this ‘what to do in Calgary’ post has a couple of things to take in that have a more muted tone, but there is always plenty of fun to be had as a family in the city too.

We will start with the family friendly Weekend at the Museum, happing this Saturday and Sunday at the Glenbow Museum. Admission is just $32 for the whole family, and includes two adults and up to four children. This weekend’s events center on everything cold (quite fitting when you think winter is mere weeks away) from creating art featuring arctic animals to taking in polar animal facts at the touch table to freezing things we see and use every day using dry ice. The weekend is put on by the Glenbow Museum as well as the Calgary Zoo and the scientists at TELUS Spark so all activities are safe and led by the experts on hand. Kids will like to test their skills at Tip of the Iceberg a hands on activity that explores how icebergs behave and what they look like besides what you can see on the surface, and even the littlest ones will enjoy hearing about the many arctic animals we share the planet with. There are also First Nations Gallery Tours to take part in and plenty of other things to do as a family. The museum is located at 130 9th Avenue in the SE, right in the heart of downtown.

November is a month for remembrance so why not take in a play or two to see the inspiring stories unfold for yourself? Jake’s Gift is being put on by the Lunch Box Theatre and runs now through November 22. It is the story of a Canadian World War II veteran who goes back to Normandy for the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. Who he meets there leads to the story of how he conquers his demons and comes to terms with what happened to him and his comrades in those fateful days. Tickets are $20 and $25 and shows run Monday-Saturday at 12:10pm with extra performances on Thursdays and Fridays starting at 6:10pm.

Liberation Days is another play that focusses on the Second World War, only this time the story is set in the war and explores the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian troops, freeing them from the domineering Germans. The central characters are a Dutch woman and a Canadian soldier who try to live their lives amid the liberation and beyond. This play is by a local playwright and is billed as an inspiring World War Two drama that is a sweeping saga of love and perseverance. Liberation Days runs through November 9th at the Max Bell Theatre at EPCOR Center. Tickets are from $35-$125 and can be purchased in advance online.

Still running through the end of November are the Calgary Ghost Tours and lectures about the spooky places in the city, for those of you who aren’t quite ready to give up on the Halloween fun just yet. Information on them can be found online at, cost is $15 for adults for the walks that take place in the downtown, Inglewood, Kensington, Beltline and other communities around town. And there is still time to get to that pumpkin patch or corn maze before the season ends.

Whatever you do, keep safe and have fun! Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Building Permits and Housing Starts on the Rise

The line from the famous movie is “if you build it, they will come” but it seems these days in the city of Calgary, it is more like ‘they are here so you have to build it’. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as the original line, and it’s probably not going to catch on anytime soon, but it is ringing true to the builders and developers all over the city and surrounding areas. With net migration on the increase, low rental vacancy rates and house prices continuing their upward trend, there is no wonder developers are looking for more and more permits to have in place for their many new construction projects.  In reports recently released, both building permits and housing starts using those permits are on the rise, not just in Calgary proper but in the whole province of Alberta as well.

Alberta and Calgary led the nation in growth for total value of building permits in August of this year. Year over year, this past Augusts saw 44% more building permits granted than in August of 2013. The Calgary metro area saw gains of 44.3% in the permits, with $803 million registered while the province itself saw an increase of 31.4% with a total registered total of $1.8 billion.

Further broken down, residential permits for the city itself totalled $473 million while non-residential permits totalled $330.3 million. These residential permits rose 32.34% from August of 2013 and 16.59% from July of 2014. On the non-residential side, the permits were up 65.76% from August 2013 and up 1.04% from July of this year.

Looking at all of Alberta, residential permits were up 34.4% to $1 billion and non-residential were up 27.3% to $727 million.

Across the country, total building permits in August were up just 2.4% from this time last year and totalled $6.7 billion. The residential part of the equation in all of Canada was up 4.3% from August of 2013 to $4.2 billion while the non- residential part was up just half a percent to $2.5 billion. They may be building all across our great nation, but the figures don’t lie—they are doing a heck of a lot more building in Alberta and particularly Calgary, which is great news for the real estate market as more and more properties are going up both in the single family and multi -family category.

In fact, it is the multi-family part of the equation that is pushing housing starts to their new higher levels, especially in the city itself. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s new report shows that there were 1,042 multi-family starts in the Calgary metro area in September of 2014. This is up from 309 units just last year. What a difference a year makes! Total housing starts were up to 1,528 for the month of September which is up from just 904 in September 2013. With the multi-family market picking up steam, it has taken over from the single detached market, which saw a decrease from 595 starts in September of 2013, but only 486 this past September. The low volume of complete units coupled with the low vacancy rental rates across the city are both factors that supports multi-family dwelling construction. Right now in the city, there are several big projects that are in the construction phase that when completed hope to house thousands of new residents each.

Year to date numbers show that total housing starts-- those across all genres-- are up 8,833 to 13,803 from the same time last year. The multi-family sector is up to 8,731 units from 4,010 year to date last year while the single detached sector is up 5,072 units from 4,823 units last year. Total starts in the city of Calgary are at 18,504 units in September while August of this year saw 18,939 starts.

If you build it they will come, and they will keep coming to the great province of Alberta and the wonderful city of Calgary for years to come. And in the near future, when these projects are completed and more approved, they will all have plenty of choice in where to call home.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Attainable Homes Calgary

Calgary is enjoying a string of 32 consecutive months where home prices have increased. While this is great news for the real estate agents and the market itself, it isn’t great news for those who are having a hard time scraping together a down payment for a home while paying high rents in this expensive city.
Over the past few months, the market has seen a higher than average shift in focus from single family homes to condo apartment and condo townhomes, and the reason is simple—they are cheaper, but for those who are lost in the widening affordability gap it won’t matter, their dream of owning a home will be pushed further and further into the future.
Well, maybe not necessarily. Created in 2009, the Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation seeks to change all that and get qualified buyers into their own homes now rather than later. Yes, it is a real thing and yes, they can help you, if you meet the criteria, move into your very own home complete with all the amenities you want, close to parks, schools and shopping, and located at sites all over the city. AHCC is a non-profit that is a wholly owned subsidiary of The City of Calgary and they work to “deliver well-appointed entry level homes for Calgarians who have been caught up in the city’s growing affordability gap”. They work with seven different builders and developers and has already sold homes in eleven different developments all over the city including Mount Pleasant 1740, Westbury Park, ZEN in Balance, Treo at Beacon Heights and SkyWest. Just recently they reached their first major milestone: the 500th sale of an affordable new home for a happy family.
Recently, they purchased property at 51 Oak in the SE community of Mahogany which, upon completion next year will include in-suite washer and dryer, granite countertops, cork flooring, maintenance free decks with BBQ gas lines and a stainless steel appliance package. The best part of the deal of course is the price—owners put $2000 down and get a minimum mortgage of $201,400 and they are eligible to become homeowners. That is a far cry from going the ‘ordinary’ route of finding a property and paying the massive down payment while having a looming mortgage, no matter how low the mortgage rates may be at the moment.
So what are the criteria?
-Your maximum household income is $90,000/ year for single or dual parent families with dependent children living at home.
-The maximum household income is $80,000/year for singles or couples with no dependent children living at home.
 -Your assets are less than $100,000 (excluding such things as your primary vehicle, pension, RESP’s and RRSP’s)
-You can qualify for a mortgage and put $2000 of your own money down on your new home.
 -You are willing to take part in their home education sessions and your attainable home will be your primary residence.

Many people who are hearing about this program for the first time wonder if it is real, and indeed it is, as the 500 people who are now homeowners can attest. They do it by bringing builders, lenders, lawyers and insurance companies together to bring down the upfront costs of purchasing a home and they work with three key elements: attractive home prices, forgivable equity loans and a shared appreciation.
To date, 1500 people from all walks of life have expressed interest in the program and more than 3,700 people have taken part in the home education session which is one of the mandatory steps in the process. The shared appreciation part of the experience allows you to make money on your home (appreciation) when you go to sell, with percentages of this appreciation (depending on how long you own the home) going back to AHCC to help them fund other sites.

If you would like more information on the great work that the Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation is doing you can visit their website at