Calgary ranks among the top 10 most affordable housing markets in the world

Apr 20 2022, 7:30 pm

The housing market in Calgary falls among the top 10 most affordable in the world, in an annual ranking of 92 cities.

According to the newly released findings of Urban Reform Institute’s Demographia International Housing Affordability Study for 2021, based on the final quarter of the year, Calgary’s median multiple is now at 4.0 — down just slightly from 4.1 in the previous study analyzing 2020.

Demographia International Housing Affordability rates middle-income housing affordability in major housing markets in eight nations: Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The median multiple is the price-to-income ratio, which is the median house price divided by the gross median household income, pre-tax. This means that the median house in Calgary costs four times the average annual income in the city.

Cities with a median multiple of 3.0 and under have “affordable” housing markets, while the range from 3.1 to 4.0 is “moderately affordable,” 4.1 to 5.0 is “seriously unaffordable,” and 5.1 and over is “severely unaffordable.”

Calgary’s median multiple puts its housing market in 10th place out of the 92 cities studied, a dramatic jump from 29th place the previous year.

Three US cities top the list, with Pittsburgh coming in first at a median multiple of 2.7, and Oklahoma City and Rochester, New York, tying for second at 3.3. A Canadian city ranks as the fourth most affordable: our neighbour to the north, Edmonton, has a median multiple of 3.6.

Falling between Edmonton and Calgary for affordability are St. Louis (3.6), Cleveland (3.7), Glasgow (3.8), Cincinnati (3.8), and Buffalo (3.9).

calgary housing market


On the other end of the list, two Canadian cities are among the top 10 least affordable across the globe. Unsurprisingly, Vancouver was the third least affordable with a median multiple of 3.3; however, it did see the smallest year-over-year increase in its median multiple among the top 10 most expensive cities.

Toronto was the 10th least affordable city, having a median multiple of 10.5.

Ottawa/Gatineau has been given a median multiple of 5.6, ranking it as the 50th most affordable housing market, and Montreal is tied at 60th place with Plymouth/Devon and Austin at 6.1.

Hong Kong remains the least affordable housing market in the world, with a median multiple of 23.2.

calgary housing market


Based on the six major Canadian cities ranked, Canada has a median multiple of 6.0 — up from 4.4 in pre-pandemic 2019. Canada saw the largest increase amongst the nations included in the study.

“Severely unaffordable housing has spread from Vancouver to smaller markets, as Metro Vancouver has shed domestic migration to smaller markets in British Columbia, such as Chilliwack, the Fraser Valley, and Kelowna and markets on Vancouver Island,” reads the study.

The study also saw a similar pattern in Toronto: “Severely unaffordable housing has spread to smaller markets in Ontario, such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Brantford, London, and Guelph, as residents of Metro Toronto seek lower costs of living.”

But the study states that what is being experienced in Canada’s hottest housing markets is also a common trend in global cities, with structural housing cost issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

The number of severely unaffordable markets increased by 60% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2019, which is been deemed as an “unprecedented deterioration” in the history of the annual study since it began in 2005.

“There is a broad view that declining housing affordability is driving higher costs of living that threaten the future of the middle-class,” states the study, adding that “the OECD finds that the middle-class faces ever-increasing costs of living and that rising owned house prices are the ‘main driver of rising middle-class expenditure.'”

Interventionist policies on housing demand are being implemented by Canada’s federal government under its 2022 budget after home prices across the country soared by 50% over the last two years. A home costs as much as 50% more than what Canadians can afford in the country’s hottest real estate markets.

10 most affordable housing markets in the world in 2021

  1. Pittsburgh, USA: 2.7
  2. Oklahoma City, USA: 3.3
  3. Rochester, USA: 3.3
  4. Edmonton, Canada: 3.6
  5. St. Louis, USA: 3.6
  6. Cleveland, USA: 3.7
  7. Glasgow, UK: 3.8
  8. Cincinnati, USA: 3.8
  9. Buffalo, USA: 3.9
  10. Calgary, Canada: 4.0

10 least affordable housing markets in the world in 2021

  1. Hong Kong: 23.2
  2. Sydney, Australia: 15.3
  3. Vancouver, Canada: 13.3
  4. San Jose, USA: 12.6
  5. Melbourne, Australia: 12.1
  6. Honolulu, USA: 12.0
  7. San Francisco, USA: 11.8
  8. Auckland, New Zealand: 11.2
  9. Los Angeles, USA: 10.7
  10. Toronto, Canada: 10.5

With files from Kenneth Chan

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