When it comes to housing affordability, how does Calgary compare to other major Canadian cities?

James Cuddy, Calgary market senior analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), says because benchmark prices are only part of the affordability equation, CMHC relies on Statistics Canada and its report on shelter costs for a comparison.

Cuddy says the report shows what percentage of households in each major Canadian city spend 30 per cent or more of their average monthly total income on shelter costs, which can include mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and condo fees, if they apply.

He says Calgary tied with Edmonton (and Windsor, Ont.) at 21.9 per cent of households spending at or above the threshold, making housing in those cities more affordable than 21 of the 35 cities in the report.

Toronto and Vancouver were the least affordable cities, with 33.4 and 32 per cent of households, respectively, spending more than the threshold. Saguenay, Que., was most affordable, with only 16.9 per cent of households at or above the threshold.

Cuddy cautions that the latest report is from 2016, so factors like Alberta’s current economic downturn might have eroded affordability in the meantime, as annual incomes have dropped for some households.

He says recent trends in Calgary do suggest lessened affordability, including a drop in the rental vacancy rate in Calgary from 6.3 per cent in October 2017 to 3.9 per cent in October 2018, which suggests a growing number of people have chosen to rent rather than buy.