Housing on the podium

When the Olympics come to town, what happens to the housing market?

If you want to know which Olympic athletes won gold, silver and bronze all you have to do is look at the medal podium. But the implications for the housing market of the host city are not as clear cut.

Typically, new affordable housing units and urban renewal are cited as benefits that come with hosting a Games. These legacy items also include new and improved sports venues, increased tourism and a boost for local businesses. In its draft plan, the Calgary 2026 bid corporation highlighted all three areas as part of its $5.2-billion strategy.  

The plan calls for 2,800 housing units to be created in Calgary and Canmore by converting the athletes' villages following the Games. The majority of these would be non-market homes, offered to those who cannot afford to purchase or rent homes at market prices, and seniors’ housing. The remaining units would be offered at market rates. As reported in the Calgary Herald, the plan calls for spending $600-million on housing.

Following the Calgary 2026 presentation, city council voted to hold a plebiscite on Nov. 13 in which Calgarians will decide if the city goes ahead with a formal bid. With so much at stake, it's important for Calgarians to educate themselves on the issues. One way of doing that is to look at the housing legacy created by previous Olympics. 

The 2012 Summer Games in London, England changed the face of the East End, where the main venues were located. Property values increased before and after the Games, and the area remains a centre of activity, with new affordable housing and condominiums under construction and museums, colleges and cultural institutions moving in. 

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver also left a legacy of affordable housing, but fewer units were built than originally planned. In terms of property values and new developments, the Games were not an immediate success. Sale prices in the Olympic Village neighbourhood dipped in the three years following the Games, but by the five-year-mark they had recovered.

At this stage in the potential Calgary bid it is too early to say what might happen to the local housing market, but history shows that the Games can produce a win-win situation. If only the athletes were so lucky.

September 13th, 2018

The Olympics can provide an opportunity for urban renewal and a boost to the local housing market.