Monday, July 24, 2006

Stop the World!

Sometime in the next day, a baby will be born in our city. Nothing unusual about that – there are babies born every day here. But this one will be special: it will officially be the millionth resident of our city. That’s ONE MILLION people in our little friendly city on the prairie!

While some will think this is a good thing, there are many others that think otherwise. This growth has come very fast. In fact, there were 35,000 new people in the city just this past year, steadily increasing over the past few years. That’s about 100 new people coming into our city every day!

We don’t have room for them. Sorry, we are full up! No vacancy! There were only about 15,000 new housing starts this year. But they still come. Why? Because of the draw of easy money. Yes, there are jobs plenty here; just no where to live. Families come from the Maritimes, from Ontario and Quebec, from Saskatchewan and Manitoba thinking they will finally find a decent job, a place to live, and be contented. Only they find, when they get here, that there is no place for them to stay! Yes, you can find a job, even if you are unskilled, but you will have to live in a shelter somewhere, or on the streets, until a vacancy comes up.

The housing shortage has caused rents to go up dramatically. In fact, some rents are going up by 37%. One man found his one bedroom apartment is going up from $690 to $950 a month starting Oct. 1. A retired man has learned his rent will go up 112%. There is no help for him -- that is what the market will bear, the landlord says. So they are grabbing what they can while the times are good. The average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary was $675. The vacancy rate for office space in both downtown and suburban Calgary now sits at 1.5 per cent, down from 2.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2006. The vacancy rate for prime downtown space is just 0.2 per cent. That's lower than in Tokyo!

This is not a big, large cosmopolitan city. This is/was a small western easy-going little city out on the wide open prairie. But we have been pushed yelling and screaming into the fast lane, and we don’t like it. Us long-time residents don’t like the changes happening in our city. We don’t like all these “foreigners” coming and disturbing our quiet, like they did in ’77 – then leaving all of a sudden in ’81 and expecting us to clean up after them! Right now, life is easy – for some. But not everyone is so lucky.

There are over 3,500 homeless people on our streets. Many of them have jobs, but they just can’t afford the rents, or the deposit for a room in some dingy basement. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. By day they work hard, and at night, they fight for the few cots in a shelter, or a park bench, or a spot under the bridge. Quite the good life!

Is it going to get any better? At the present time, it looks like it will just keep on going up and up. The price for an average house here is $360,500 – (or was) it goes up by about $500 a day now. If you have a house here, hang on to it for a few more days, and you will make enough to live in luxury. Well, just not here -- you will have to move to Saskatchewan for that! (private joke) If you sell, thinking of buying another place, that won’t make you much profit. But if you are leaving the city, selling makes good sense.

That’s what a lot of the retirees are doing; they are packing up, selling all they have, and moving “back home”, wherever that is. It may have been 30 years ago when they came out here, but they are now going back to either coast, and retire on their share of the “winnings”! And good for them! They worked hard for it, and went through some rough years when things were not going well. But now with the high price of oil, our King Ralph has been able to give every man, woman, and child $400 last year – just as a bonus for being here. But he is leaving politics too, so it is his way of saying “so long”. Well, really, it was our money in the first place!

In the meantime, most of us have to fight crowded trains, or heavy traffic, trying to get to work, put up with rude people, pay exorbitant prices for everything, and then fight our way back to the suburbs to our own little house, that we don’t have time to enjoy. Yes, this is making a lot of sense, doesn’t it?


Michael said...

It's happening to a degree here as well. And we really have limited space, what with living on an island. $360K for a house? My family sold our old house 3+ years ago for about that. We purchased our current house about 3 weeks later and lost $100K in the process (the house was valued at only about $30K more at the same time).
It is getting crazy out West.

James said...

That's why I live in a small town of less than 2,000 people. Unfortunately crazy prices abound over here also mainly due to city workers like myself pushing up the local property prices. Despite that I love my house and my garden... I don't love my mortgage though :-0

Scott E D said...

Home prices are falling here finally!