A Fine Balance

We need to grow up, in and out.

A recent City of Calgary report calculates that 15% of our currently developed areas are underutilized, and it’s good thinking to maximize what we have by promoting “densification”.

The City of Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan calls for an additional 190,000 people to be accommodated within established communities over the next 25 years. That’s 1/3 of all new population. And in the next 50 years, fully 1/2 of ongoing growth will be absorbed into established communities. That’s what we mean by densification.

Of course we can’t fit everybody into the neighbourhoods we’ve already built, but we are already moving toward optimizing our urban footprint. 


How will we strike the right balance?

There is ample opportunity to achieve our city’s densification goals. Zoning bylaws will need to be adjusted to encourage dwelling diversity throughout Calgary. We’re already making real progress.

“The key to building a more sustainable Calgary lies in co-operation between developers and planners, as well as in the participation of everyday Calgarians.

- Lance Robinson, University of Calgary

Calgary’s homebuilders are responding to our new density goals in many ways, including supplying new product in existing neighbourhoods with innovative projects that make the best use of smaller lot sizes. The City, too, is making changes to aid in dwelling diversification. For example, they recently approved six-storey wood frame construction to allow for a little more density without adding too much height, but a lot better affordability due to materials costs being lower.

What does our densification progress look like? In the past five years, 1/3 of new housing units were built in established communities. That made room for 13,000 people and marks the first time these neighbourhoods have grown in 12 years. 

Densification of developed areas can be tricky. It needs to work in concert with the market. The majority of Calgarians still prefer single-family homes, so we must still provide that choice on differing lot sizes. Also, residents in established areas tend to resist increased density because sometimes it can mean congested roads, reduced green space, over-stressed infrastructure and decreased affordability. Sensitivity to every aspect of densification will drive the best overall results.

With Calgary growing by 40,000 each year, we’ll be seeing new housing just about everywhere. We need redevelopment in established areas as well as new, complete communities, with built-in density to prepare for rapid population growth in a measured, considered way.

Maintaining diversity for buyers is part of smarter growth. We need to expand in the healthiest of ways – up, in and out.

Do you live in an established neighbourhood? Have you noticed an increased population in your area? In the suburbs, do you see more density in new communities?

Our challenge is to grow while giving Calgarians real choice and affordability. It’s truly a delicate balance.

December 19th, 2014
Updated: September 14th, 2017

We need to grow up, in and out.