Jan. 31, 2013 | Cody Stuart
Seniors Facing Possible Housing PinchOnce thought of as one of Canada's youngest cities, Calgary's aging population could have implications on the city's real estate industry.
In 2011, the first wave of Calgary's 268,000 baby boomers – those born between 1945 and 1965 - turned 65.
It is estimated that there are around 100,000 seniors living in Calgary, a number that comprises roughly 10 per cent of the city's entire population. While it has taken a full 70 years for Calgary seniors to climb from five per cent to 10 per cent of the population, estimates suggest it will only take 30 years to climb to almost 20 per cent of the population by 2040. With the substantial number of Calgarians set to turn 65 in that time, both the municipal and provincial governments are examining what should be done to meet the changing needs of city seniors.
The City recently began hosting sessions to discuss the possible impact of these changing demographics. The Older Adult Housing Working group, a partnership between the Land Use Planning and Policy (LUPP) Unit and the Community and Neighbourhood Services Unit (CNS) is currently examining the impact of the growing seniors population on future housing need in Calgary.
"Despite Calgary being a young city compared to the national average, we will see in Calgary – as well as every other city across Canada – a big wave of aging population, mainly driven by the baby boomer generation," said Nicole Schaefer, planner with LUPP and one of the leads for the project. "Ideally, if [seniors] can't stay in their old house any more, they would like to preferably stay in the same neighbourhood, and that's where the diversity of housing types comes into play."
Typically as a city's population ages, the demand for downsized accessible housing increases, as seniors seek out lower maintenance homes that allow easier access to amenities and rely less on vehicles to get around. According to Schaefer, such demands mean singlefamily homes become less sought after by seniors, with demand amongst the age group increasing for apartments, townhomes and rental units.
Currently Calgary's pre-seniors population, those aged 45 to 64, numbers 267,700 or roughly a quarter of Calgary's entire population, with 75 per cent (roughly 200,000) living in single-detached homes. Compare that to just 49 per cent of the city's 43,700 older seniors, those aged 75 and up, living in the same type of housing, and the potential need for more specialized accommodation becomes apparent.
In a recent survey from RE/MAX, 40 per cent of Canadians who said they intended to spend less on their new home were over the age of 55. Overall, the 55-plus age group represented roughly a quarter (23%) of all homebuyers across Canada.
According to Schaefer, the most obvious needs for more senior friendly housing sit outside Calgary's downtown centre, where singledetached homes dominate the city's housing stock.
"The more you go outside of the core part of Calgary, you see less rental opportunities, less non-singlefamily houses and predominantly single-family product right now," she said. "In turn that would mean because you find less variety of housing, it will be more difficult for people to find the right product for their age to stay in those communities."
By the City's projections, those numbers combined with the growing number of elderly Calgarians would mean Calgary will need about 16,000 more apartments and ground oriented units, such as duplexes, townhouses and secondary suites than might be expected based on today's housing preferences.
Calgary REALTOR® Marla Klassen was one of those who sat in on a meeting held by Older Adult Housing Working group, and said costs in Calgary can prove prohibitive for those seniors wishing to stay put.
"Many seniors move to reduce their expenses: property taxes, utilities and property maintenance. These costs must show a significant reduction in comparison to other cities and provinces if we are to keep our seniors in Calgary," she said.
In order to alleviate concerns that Calgary may become too costly for many of the 60-plus crowd, who Klassen said may otherwise look to vacation homes or move in with family, she believes the government should take steps to ensure new communities are built with seniors in mind.
"The government needs to start planning for the middle income earners," she said. "City planners must plan for seniors only residences in each community just as they do for green space, schools single family and multifamily space. Seniors only bungalows and villas on smaller lots in addition to attached dwellings and villa condo properties would be so welcome in our city. Residents could stay self sufficient for longer in the same community where they currently live near people and facilities with whom they have built long term relationships - seniors want to be active and give back to their community."
While Schaefer said there is no definite next step in place for the group, she said the City will hold internal meetings based on the group's findings, with an eye on possible implementation in the future.