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Average Calgary house price drops by $45,000

$11.2B sales on the rise to new annual record

Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Despite a recent decline in average sale prices for Calgary homes, the total dollar volume in the city's residential real estate market has soared so far this year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Total MLS transactions in Calgary are nearly $11.2 billion up to the end of September -- a 22.8 per cent hike compared with the similar period a year ago. The total for the entire year in 2006 was just over $11.4 billion.

This year's jump in total dollar volume has been fuelled by price hikes earlier in the year which peaked in July as single-family homes hit a record $505,920 average sale price.

But as of Tuesday the Calgary Real Estate Board website was showing that the average sale price of a single-family home in the city had dropped by more than $45,000 from that record high to $460,089.

The median sale price in the last 30 days is $417,500 -- a drop of $21,500 from the high of $439,000 recorded in June.

The Calgary real estate market has recently been experiencing a period of price adjustment due to the rapid rise in prices earlier in the year, said Annie Tsok, a realtor with Re/Max Real Estate Central. However, the higher-end products in hot neighbourhoods, particularly in inner-city areas, have not been affected, she said.

"What I've found now is that it's more of a buyer's market with a lot more choices for people," said Tsok. "The selection of product out there is more than double the product a year ago."

Most of the overall price growth in the city took place in the first part of the year, said Lai Sing Louie, senior market analyst in Calgary for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

"Year-to-date we're above last year's pace (in sales) even though sales have come off. . . . When you look at all that price growth too, multiply it by the volume, it's going to obviously be higher than last year," said Louie of the total dollar volume.

"In terms of the supply, it is at a high level right now . . . It's putting downward pressure on prices . . . This is a good opportunity for people who have been thinking about buying. They can take their time and find something that suits their needs almost precisely."

According to CREB, there are currently 5,568 active listings in the city's single-family market. And CREA says new listings in Calgary have increased by 23.3 per cent from a year ago to 44,308 for the first nine months of 2007.

The first two quarters of this year were "very strong," said Ron Stanners, CREB president.

"But the balance of the year has still been fairly good. It's been a normal year since May. Let's put it that way. We haven't been on the real high performance level we were on January to May, but since then we've had what I would call a good, normal marketplace."

The CREA report says a substantial increase in new listings has caused markets in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina to become more balanced.

On a national level, year-to-date sales in Canada's major markets were 291,003 in the first nine months, up 8.7 per cent from the same period in 2006. MLS residential new listings numbers 148,022 units on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the third quarter of 2007 -- the second highest level on record, and less than one per cent below the record set in the second quarter of this year.

"Resale housing activity remains strong, but it is beginning to ease back from its breakneck pace recorded in the first half of the year," said CREA chief economist Gregory Klump.

"Sales activity remains on track to set a new annual record this year.

"The recent surge in new listings has quickly put major markets in Alberta into balanced territory. Buyers in those markets will likely take more time to shop and remove some of the steam from price increases."


Single-family housing pace slowing

Marty Hope, Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sagging construction will force builders in Calgary to review their year-end estimates, says an industry official.

"We were originally budgeted to do more than 600 homes, but we'll likely have to reduce that by about 100," says Shane Wenzel, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Shane Homes. "I think a lot of the others will have to take another look at their numbers."

September was another slow month for single-family builders, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Work started on 697 homes, down more than 18 per cent from the 854 started in the same month a year ago.

The 6,114 starts recorded for the first nine months of this year are well off last year's record pace of of 8,304.

"Single-detached starts during the last three months of this year are expected to be below the performance of the fourth quarter of last year," says Lai Sing Louie, senior market analyst for CMHC. "However, the gap between this year and last year's production is expected to narrow and be under 25 per cent by year-end."

While activity in the detached market has slowed, the same can't be said for the multi-family market.

In September, starts totalled 689 units, almost 275 per cent more than the 184 starts of a year ago -- the result of high numbers of semi-detached, townhouses and apartments.

"The combined total of multi-family starts reached the second highest level for a September in recent history," says Louie. "Outside of 2005, you would have to go back to the early 1980s to see a higher level of production."

With three-quarters of the year completed, multi-family starts total 4,690, less than one per cent off last year's total of 4,735.

But because of the weakness in the single-family housing sector, starts of all kinds are running 17 per cent behind the same nine-month period in 2006 -- 10,804 this year compared with 13,039 a year ago.

Provincially, starts in Alberta's seven largest centres totalled 4,134 in September, more than 33 per cent higher than the previous year.

Nationally, urban starts last month totalled 22,031, an increase of 44 per cent from a year earlier.

Housing starts from January to September Single-family Multi-family Total

- September 2007 697 689 1,386

- September 2006 854 184 1,038

- Percentage change 18.4 274.5 33.5

- Year-to-date 2007 6,114 4,690 10,804

- Year-to-date 2006 8,304 4,735 13,039

- Percentage change -26.4 -1.0 -17.1

Courtesy, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Albertans suspect boom ending: survey

Darcy Henton, Edmonton Journal

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Albertans are beginning to suspect the bloom is coming off the Prairie rose, but they're not alarmed about it, says a new Environics poll.

The results of the poll being released today suggest Albertans are losing confidence that the current pace of economic growth will continue and many are anticipating the end of the boom, pollster Tony Coulson said Tuesday.

"Many Albertans are now of the view that the type of growth experienced in recent years is unsustainable and that things are likely to cool off before long," Coulson said.

He says that feeling is driven by concerns about inflation and labour shortages and a recognition that resources are non-renewable.

"There's inflation, there's high housing prices, there's a labour shortage," he said. "Everything is going crazy and people are growing skeptical that it's even possible to continue at the current pace."

The poll suggests only 52 per cent of Albertans are concerned about the white hot economy cooling down over the next five years.

"Infrastructure is stretched to the max," he said. "Some people think it may not be a bad thing to take the foot off the gas."

The lessening of confidence in the economy is a dramatic shift from opinion expressed in surveys earlier this year.

Environics polls in March and June showed about three-quarters of Albertans believed the economy was getting stronger, but the latest poll between Sept. 18 and Oct. 2 suggests that less than half now feel that way, Coulson said.

Rural Albertans, particularly those in central Alberta, are the most concerned -- 62 per cent -- the boom could be starting to wind down.

"I think rural folks are feeling the costs to a greater extent and not seeing as many of the advantages of the boom," he said.

Chaldeans Mensah, who teaches political science at Grant MacEwan College, said there's "an element of realism" reflected in the poll.

"My sense is that people realize this boom is of such an unprecedented nature that it's got to cool down or moderate in the foreseeable future," he said.

The results of the survey of 1,011 Albertans are accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points 95 times out of 100.


Black Diamond, Turner Valley reject amalgamation talks

Hundred votes make difference to defeat proposed merger

Robin Summerfield, Calgary Herald

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In a close decision separated by about 100 votes, residents of Turner Valley and Black Diamond decided against going ahead with amalgamation talks.

"It's a huge disappointment, in my opinion," Turner Valley town councillor Barry Williamson said Monday.

Williamson, who is in favour of the proposed merger, said the motion was defeated because people thought they were voting for outright amalgation rather than further talks.

A majority of Black Diamond residents said no to further merger discussions, while the majority of Turner Valley residents voted yes. The two towns about 45 kilometres south of Calgary have a population of about 2,000 each, sit just three kilometres apart and had been discussing amalgamation since late 2005. Williamson predicted the issue will be back on the table within the next few years despite Monday's result.

- Meanwhile, in other rural election results, popular three-term Okotoks Mayor Bill McAlpine, who has held his office for nine years, handily won his seat in Monday's election. All six town councillors were acclaimed in Okotoks.

McAlpine, who took more than three times the votes of his closest competitor, said managing growth and building a performing arts centre, an indoor soccer centre and a new bridge on 32nd Street would be priorities.

- In Canmore, Mayor Ron Casey was acclaimed. Pam Hilstad, Andre Gareau, Shane Jonker, Jim Ridley, Corina Dootjes and Ed Russell all won town council seats.

Reached Monday, Casey said affordable housing is a major issue. Casey said Canmore needs between 1,000 and 1,500 more affordable housing units to meet demand. In the past couple of years, the town has added 72 units and next year another 58 will be built, he said.

- Up the road in Banff, John Stutz was acclaimed mayor and John Gibson, Stavros Karlos, Chris MacDonald, Chip (Cheryl) Olver, Karen Sorensen and Leslie Taylor all won seats at council table.

Stutz said one priority will be ensuring Banff's tourism economy remains "robust."

- In Airdrie, Mayor Linda Bruce was acclaimed and Shawn Howard, Marlene Weaver, Kelly Hegg, Glenda Alexander, Fred Burley and Richard Siemens all won council seats.

- In Strathmore, George Lattery and Peter Renny vied to unseat mayoral incumbent Keith Schneider, while 15 nominees were in the race for town council spots. Results were not available at press time.

- In Chestermere, mayoral candidates Jeff Colvin, Patricia Matthews and Ada Rawlins were still battling it out at press time. Results weren't expected until late Monday night.

- In Cochrane, mayoral incumbent Ken Bech was defeated in an upset loss to Truper McBride, a town councillor. McBride won the seat with just 231 votes over Bech. Joann Churchill, Tara McFadden, Miles Chester, Ross Watson, Ivan Davies and Brenda Sine all won council seats.

Bronco back at helm

UPDATED: 2007-10-16 02:42:21 MST

Mayor waltzes to third term and pledges to continue LRT, affordable housing fight


Bronconnier waltzed to an easy victory last night to secure his third term in the city's top job despite a stiff and well-funded challenge by runner up Alnoor Kassam, who ran a tenacious campaign that ultimately failed to capture the imagination of voters.

And in a city where incumbents are rarely sent packing, Alds. Helene Larocque, Madeleine King and Craig Burrows were turfed by unhappy constituents against some strong challengers, while environmental crusader Brian Pincott emerged to win the Ward 11 seat vacated by Barry Erskine days before the campaign began.

Bronconnier swept to a relatively easy win over Kassam, who churned out an expensive election campaign, but didn't pull in the massive majority he did in 2004.

The mayor was thrilled with the victory and pledged to use his impressive mandate to push forward his agenda for new LRT lines, recreation centres, affordable housing and parks.

"This is a very strong mandate from Calgarians looking for a campaign platform and this platform delivered that," he said.

"But my first priority is going to city council next week and being sworn in."

While there were no surprises in the mayor's race, city council saw some major developments.

In Ward 3, Larocque was third, losing to winner Jim Stevenson, as well as finishing behind the other challenger George Chahal.

King was tossed from her inner-city perch in Ward 8 with challenger John Mar claiming victory against the two-term alderman.

Burrows, who appeared to be going into the campaign comfortable that he would earn a third term, lost to John Connelly as the ghosts of some of the alderman's controversial decisions came back to haunt him.

Pincott said the new voices on council are exactly what the city has been looking for.

"We heard a lot from people who were looking for a new voice on council and we intend to give it to them," Pincott said.

"We were accused in some of the media of being a sleepy ward but we're here to send a wake-up call."

Election turnout appeared to be stronger than in 2004. The vote drew an estimated 4% more than the 19.8% who voted in the last election, though final numbers weren't available by press time.


Housing project planned around mosque

Muslim leader says everyone is welcome

Graeme Morton, with files from Sherri Zickefoose, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2007

Calgary's Ahmadiyya Muslim community is planning a residential subdivision centred around a mosque to be built near Calgary's northern outskirts.

Sultan Mahmood, president of the city's northwest Ahmadiyya community group, said the development is modelled on a six-year-old Islamic subdivision in Vaughan, Ont., north of Toronto.

"Traditionally, people have bought homes to be close to work, to a shopping centre, hospital or school. But no one had actively promoted the idea of living close to a place of worship," said Naseer Ahmad, project manager for the Vaughan Peace Village.

Vilma Dawson of the Calgary Committee on Race Relations and Cross Cultural Understanding questioned the effect the development would have on the Muslim community.

"They would, in a sense, be ghettoizing themselves. I don't think it's the best approach. Given the fact that the Muslim community is already a target worldwide, what would they gain by isolating themselves?"

But Mahmood said the new community will be open to everyone regardless of faith.

"In fact, we are going to encourage other people to join us. We don't want to be isolated," said Mahmood. "We do not restrict anyone from coming into our mosques. The mosque is the house of God and is open to anyone."

Mahmood said the project is in the "early conceptual stage."

Mahmood said the project is 10 to 15 years from breaking ground.

The 64-hectare property is located on 15th Street N.E., between the Coventry Hills and Balzac.

"Right now, we are focused on completing the (Baitun Nur) mosque," said Mahmood.

That $15-million, 48,000-square-foot mosque, located at 4353 54th Ave. N.E., is scheduled to open early in 2008.

"We do have the land and the will to develop the other property, but we won't turn our attention to it until the new mosque is finished. We don't even have the blueprints yet," said Mahmood.

Mahmood said the new community would include a mosque, a mixture of housing options, a community hall, green spaces and sports fields, some shops and eventually a public school.

He noted in Vaughan, the Peace Village subdivision was developed around the existing Ahmadiyya mosque.

"There is a desire for our people to live close to their mosque. Even though the new mosque in the northeast isn't completed yet, many people have moved into the (Castleridge) neighbourhood," Mahmood said.

Khalid Mahmood Choudhry, a spokesman for the northeast Ahmadiyya community, said in Islamic cultures, the goal is to have mosques within walking distance of large numbers of followers.

"It's much better for the children, elderly people or those who don't have their own transportation to walk to the mosque, to be able to meet their friends and socialize."

Ahmad of Peace Village noted the Ontario development has been so successful, a second phase is underway to supplement its existing 260 homes.

He noted representatives from other religious faiths have toured Peace Village to study how it operates.

SAIT residence delayed -- again

Deborah Tetley, Calgary Herald

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2007

Students hoping to take up residence in SAIT's new dormitory will now have to wait until at least the last week of December to move in, after prolonged trade worker shortages have once again pushed back the anticipated opening date.

SAIT officials and contractor Stuart Olson now hope to have the 720-bed residence tower open and occupied in time for the winter semester in January -- putting the project five months behind schedule.

Wednesday's development is the latest in a series of delays for SAIT's dorm and comes as Calgary grapples with the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country at 0.5 per cent.

Given the string of delays since the project began in February, school officials now refuse to set a new timeline for students.

"We have been down this road before and we're not going to put ourselves in that situation again," said Heidi Sparks, a spokeswoman for SAIT.

"So we are going to wait until we have the occupancy permit in hand before we set a move-in date," she said.

"We are going to need an absolute guarantee, so until then we are not moving forward."

The contractor overseeing the 22-storey residence said 12 floors are completed and ready to rent -- although an occupancy permit won't be sought until the entire building is complete.

But finding enough trade workers to keep the construction momentum going has been difficult, triggering several delays on the $53-million project, said Stuart Olson vice-president Paul Polson.

"One day we'll get a crew out there of 15 people, and the next day we'll have two show up," Polson said.

"Then, it's a domino effect on the whole project. It's been really tough to get a flow of work going."

The project has been dogged by delays, including flooding in June that damaged drywall and foundation and soil problems off the start.

As a result, SAIT officials announced in July that the dorms wouldn't be ready by Aug. 22 as initially planned.

Hundreds of students were left scrambling for housing while thousands of others were on dorm room wait lists at other city post-secondaries.

Following an appeal by student leaders and SAIT administrators, concerned Calgarians opened their homes to the students, and all but one student eventually found a place to live, Sparks said.

That student "took a rain check," opting to enrol at the trade and tech school next fall, and was guaranteed a spot in residence -- and promised no tuition increase, Sparks said.

Student leaders say the delays have been frustrating.

"But at least they are giving us some notice, so students can make arrangements," said Craig Hopkins, vice-president of academic and student affairs for the students' association.

"It could have been far worse. At least we don't have hundreds of students without a place to live."

Sparks said she understands the frustration.

"It's a situation that's unfortunate for students," she said. "We are looking forward to when it's open and students are able to occupy it."

Prices continue to ease for new Canadian houses

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2007

TORONTO - The growth in new housing prices in Canada continued to ease in August, despite soaring prices in the white-hot Prairie markets.

For Canada as a whole, prices rose 6.5 per cent over August 2006, a drop from 7.7 per cent annual growth in July. Growth has eased over the past 12 months.

On a monthly basis, prices increased 0.4 per cent between July and August, resulting in a New Housing Price Index of 155.1 (1997100).

In the Prairie region, high demand and rising labour costs for construction fuelled record year-over-year increases for Saskatoon, at a whopping 53.6 per cent, Regina at 29.2 per cent and Winnipeg 16 per cent.

In Alberta, housing price increases in Edmonton began to cool with a year-over-year increase of 30.2 per cent. Calgary registered a year-over-year increase of 6.1 per cent.

On the East Coast, housing prices rose seven per cent in Halifax and 4.5 per cent in St. John's over last year.

Percentage growth in housing prices by city (from August 2006):

St. John's +4.5
Halifax +7
Charlottetown +0.2
Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton +0.8
Quebec +3.9
Montreal +4.5
Ottawa-Gatineau +1.1
Toronto and Oshawa +2.4
Hamilton +3.1
St. Catharines-Niagara +4.3
Kitchener +1.9
London +3.2
Windsor -2.8
Greater Sudbury and Thunder Bay +4.1
Winnipeg +16
Regina +29.2
Saskatoon +53.6
Calgary +6.1
Edmonton +30.2
Vancouver +6.6
Victoria +0.4

Financial Post

© CanWest News Service 2007


Slow development, report urges province

Sean Myers, Calgary Herald

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Albertans want to see the province slow the rapidly growing economy to balance runaway development with environmental concerns, according to public consultations the government conducted during the summer.

Increasing royalties collected from energy companies, which could lead to layoffs and downsizing, may be a way to slow growth and "fund the development of alternative energy and mitigate environmental damage caused by the industry," said one section of the survey report.

The report, released by the Department of Sustainable Resource Development on Tuesday, will lead to a draft land-use strategy to be completed early next year.

"We're seeing a shift," said Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton, who also heard from four working groups on the issue Tuesday.

"The challenge of the '90s was to pay off the deficit and restart the economy.

"The success of that policy has created a new set of problems. Albertans are saying it's time to change gears."

The "workbook" summary, which compiled the views of 3,000 Albertans who participated, shows a dissatisfaction with the "ad hoc approach" to land-use planning in recent years that many believe has left inadequate protection for the environment.

"This is part of a process for a strategy that's been needed for over 15 years," said Calgary MLA David Swann, the Liberal party's environment critic. "And this is their third attempt at it.

"What we need is for the government to take this information and implement it in legislation that holds them accountable."

The province has been working on a land-use framework for well over a year.

New rules were brought in at a recreational area bordering Kananaskis after 10,000 campers and off-road enthusiasts left the Indian Graves and McLean Creek areas littered with trash and burned-out cars on the May long weekend.

Last month a review panel sparked a debate when it concluded Albertans were shortchanged on resource royalties collected last year to the tune of $2 billion.

"As we speak, more and more developments are being approved," said Swann. "The science on what these developments are doing is not keeping up with the developments themselves. We're operating in the dark."

Morton said under the new land-use strategy, municipalities will maintain control over the operational decision-making, but the province will take a stronger oversight role.


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