Urban growth by the numbers

The latest Calgary census is packed with interesting insights.

The City of Calgary recently released the results of its 2019 census

The annual survey found that the city is still growing. But it is growing at a slower rate than in the past. The census also revealed that Calgary is aging. Over the last decade, the fastest-growing segment of the population is the 65-to-74-year-olds.

They are followed closely by people between the ages of 55 and 64.

Alongside these developments there are other reasons for concern. Compared to 2016, the number of Calgarians aged 20 to 24 shrank slightly. The population segment between 25 and 34 showed a greater decline.

It’s a shift that has huge implications for Calgary’s future. It will impact policy in areas like education, health care and taxes. The census also pays considerable attention to housing and functions as both a scorecard and a guide to future planning. 

When regarded as a scorecard, the census makes for an interesting read. The fastest-growing neighbourhood is Mahogany. It is followed by Legacy, Nolan Hill, Cornerstone and Redstone. You don’t have to be a demographer to see what those areas have in common; they are all new communities.

The census found that these “actively developing” areas account for 73% of new housing. Thus far in 2019 the breakdown of new housing units by area is startling: 

  • Established Areas 663 
  • Centre City 1,165
  • Actively Developing Communities 4,974

These numbers create a sense of urgency around some of The City’s planning initiatives. These include the ongoing review of the Municipal Development Plan and the Calgary Transportation Plan. The MDP has a goal of accommodating 1/3 of population growth in established areas by 2039, rising to half by 2069. 

The City’s most recent Monitoring Progress Report showed there was a long way to go to meet those targets. The census numbers won’t do anything to change that.
But the goal of creating a more compact and sustainable city remains valid. So what can The City do to encourage growth in established areas?

Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. permit stacked townhouses. These look like a single home but have multiple units that are set side by side rather than on top of each other. Each unit has a street entrance, which works to preserve the character of the street.

It’s one way that cities are addressing the lifecycle of communities and promoting growth in established areas. These changes often prompt worries from residents who see their neighbourhoods changing. For the City, that means more outreach and public engagement to ensure that everyone gets heard. 

It’s a necessary step in the redevelopment process. After all, if Calgary is to become a more compact city, then we’d better all learn to get along.

September 6th, 2019

Our city is changing in surprising ways.