Calgary is a Suburban City

Calgary’s population is estimated to grow by 120,000 over the next five years, according to the 2013-2017 Suburban Residential Growth Report. Almost 95 per cent of this growth is expected to occur in the city’s outlying communities. That statistic is not surprising given that most of Calgary’s population growth has already been occurring.

If you have taken a drive to the edges of the city recently, you will notice the development is pushing outward at a rapid rate. Huge swathes of undeveloped land surrounding established areas are rapidly becoming suburbs. The inner core is a bustling city during business hours which empties en mass at 5 pm as suburban residents return to their quiet bedroom communities.

Given the large land mass that is the city of Calgary, it is a suburban city in every sense of the word. One of the City of Calgary’s long term goals, as outlined in the Municipal Development Plan, is to balance inner-city and new suburban development to prevent urban sprawl. Urban generally has a higher population density, whereas, suburban is more spread out.


Despite the large geographical area of the city all areas are easily accessible. Calgary’s four quadrants are marked by Centre Street defining east and west, with the Bow River dividing from south. The Bow and the Elbow rivers wind through various areas and converge here. Life in Calgary revolves around the rivers, its many green spaces and the intricate pathway system. Bike lanes are the latest addition and you will see many avid cyclists who use this form of transportation for commuting. The City of Calgary is continuously upgrading the transit infrastructure to keep up with the rapid growth.


The downtown core is found in the southwest and has a multitude of bars, shops, restaurants and parks. Young couples and singles are attracted to this trendy urban lifestyle. It is a short distance from work and cultural activities. A car is hardly necessary as the walkability score is high. You can rent a go car short term, when more reach is required. Other options for transport include the C-Train which serves the downtown core as well as many of the outlying areas. This part of the city is home to several upscale communities such as Altadore, Bankview, Cliff Bungalow, Connaught (district in Beltline), Elbow Park, Elboya, Erlton, Mission, Mount Royal, Parkhill/Stanley Park, Rideau Park, Roxboro, Scarboro, Sunalta and more. Moving a little farther to the west, acreages and estate homes can be found.


In second place for upscale communities, the northwest of Calgary is home to some desirable inner city communities such as Bowness, Capitol Hill, Hillhurst, Briar Hill, Montgomery, Mount Pleasant, Parkdale, Point Mckay, Sunnyside, University Heights to name a few. Inner city northwest is distinguished by its eclectic mix of boutiques, pubs, cafes, bakeries and craft shops. This area is ideal for mountain lovers, for not only the views, but for its easy access to the Rocky Mountains. The far northwest tip includes king sized homes, acreages, and estate homes.


Commercial areas, industrial parks and the Calgary International Airport can be found in northeast Calgary. Several companies have migrated their offices here, where the rents are more reasonable and parking is available. Bridgeland/Riverside, Renfrew, Crescent Heights, Tuxedo, Winston Heights, Mountview are some of the in demand areas close to the core. Easily serviced by public transit, the cost of owning a home here is more appealing for those on a budget especially as you move farther away from the centre of downtown.


The south-east quadrant has residential developments and up-and-coming suburban housing projects in the outlying areas. This area contains a commercial and light industrial zone. Starter homes can be found in the inner city southeast and the range extends to midrange and newer high end communities in the outlying areas. Some of the communities closest to the centre include Albert Park/Radisson Heights, Alyth/Bonny Brook, Forest Heights, Inglewood, Ramsay.



Inner city neighborhoods consist primarily of low-rise and high-rise condominiums as well as apartments. Communities adjacent to the downtown core offer a mix of housing types. More semi-detached and detached homes exist here, both new and older dwellings. This area consists of infill style, duplexes, and townhouses in addition to high-rise and walk-up apartments.


The suburban areas of Calgary are marked by new housing developments where you will find everything from estate homes to bungalows. The outlying areas are growing at the fastest rate. Here you will obtain more house for your dollar, compared to the inner city counterparts.

Panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains are best seen from the northwest and southwest quadrants. The inner suburbs offer a mix of housing including semi-detached, single-detached and townhouses. Neighborhoods in the outer suburbs are comprised mostly of detached homes.


Calgary has six of the country’s 25 richest neighborhoods. Neighborhoods closer to the downtown come with a higher price tag, yet tend to hold their value. In established localities in Calgary the average home price is in the $500,000 range. In these affluent districts, the average income ranges from $500,000 to $1,500,000 and up. The luxury home market is a select one furnished primarily by oil industry executives.

Twenty-five percent of Calgarians have an annual income of more than $150,000. The remaining 75% of Calgarians contain the largest market of home buyers. The price of homes drops ten minutes from the downtown by more than $100,000 and becomes more affordable as you move farther from the centre of the city.

Urban vs Suburban: Does it really matter?

Calgary is a geographically dispersed city. Regarding its urban-suburban segmentation gives cause to ask yourself, “Does living in the inner city core make more sense or are suburban communities more desirable for you?” In Calgary, the urban-suburban debate is futile, especially for families. The suburbs offer pretty much the same amenities and conveniences as the inner city. The only issue is commuting times. You will need to be prepared to drive a greater distance to and from your outlying community.

Suburban residential developments, even in the remotest areas, offer more living space while costing less on a per square foot basis. It is not surprising that families positioned in the market majority are gravitating to the outskirts, where larger backyards and active lifestyle options are available. The suburbs are ideal for raising a family.

Empty nesters are also attracted by the safe environment, neighborliness, and community programs afforded by suburban developments. Both demographic segments are more than willing to trade the shopping and dining excitement (and all the urban white noise that comes with it) for a larger home in a greener suburban community, surrounded by natural attractions like prairies, lakes and valleys.

Rapid residential growth in the suburbs can also be explained by taking a closer look at the demographic profile of Calgarians. Around 67% of Calgary households have children while about 2.3% are multiple-family homes. According to the 2014 Calgary Benchmark Report, of the 62% of Calgarians wish to live in a single-family home, 16% want a semi-detached home, and just 22% want a multi-family home.

It is not difficult to imagine why people with children would like to live in single-family homes where the families can run around and make noise without getting complaints from the neighbors. Larger and more affordable single- detached homes and lake cabins in the suburbs are naturally more attractive to this demographic.

If you are single or a couple without a family who seek an urban lifestyle, living near the downtown core may be more appealing. If your kids are gearing up for post-secondary education, the northwest contains the University of Calgary; Mount Royal University in the southwest.

Inner city living offers unique advantages, as does suburban living. Your lifestyle will dictate the best scenario for you.

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