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NAIOP BLOG: Edmonton’s Economic Outlook Heavily Influenced by migration, housing availability

Housing Accelerator Fund Announced the same day CRE members hear about record population growth

A skyline of the Garneau area featuring Maclab’s recently completed Eleanor and Laurent buildings

Over the past few months, the numbers for 2023 population growth have steadily been trickling in. Canada's population grew by more than 400,000 people between July and September last year, driven largely by international immigration. Interprovincial migration has also been at record highs as Alberta's economy has remained strong. And all of this record growth adds up: The Conference Board of Canada says that between 2023 and projections for 2024, we’re looking at welcoming over 100,000 new people to Edmonton.

At NAIOP's recent Edmonton Economic Forecast luncheon, Felicia Mutheardy (Chief Economist with the City of Edmonton) took us through the details. Edmonton's working-age population grew faster than any other major city in Canada last year, but employment kept pace, with unemployment lower than the historical average. Population growth is expected to drive economic growth over the next few years.


Panelists David Young and Mike Saunders, and moderator Angela Wu – Kemp dug in from a real estate perspective. Considering the headwinds, Edmonton’s housing affordability was relatively resilient in 2023: Average rent price increases for a two-bedroom were 6.4% in Edmonton, compared to Calgary’s 14.3% increase, and Vancouver and Toronto’s 8-9% increases.

The panel identified opportunities in building on that affordability advantage, including ways to promote Edmonton to private investors, and opportunities to keep recent graduates and others in Edmonton for the long-term. This will be a key driver of longer-term economic growth, and should be considered a top priority.


"With a growing population comes greater demand for infrastructure of all sorts, not just for housing" - Felicia Mutheardy (CBC)

Housing Accelerator Fund Announced

That very same day, Prime Minister Trudeau was in town to announce $175M for the City of Edmonton to keep up with housing supply. The city has committed to fast-tracking an additional 5,200 units over 3 years – that’s above the approximately 10,000 unit-per-year baseline for Edmonton.


Edmonton has already done a great job of things like the recent Zoning Bylaw Renewal and cutting red tape. It's one of the reasons we’ve been able to keep up with housing supply despite record migration, skyrocketing construction costs, and high interest rates.


But modernizing zoning, cutting red-tape, and streamlining approvals are what the Housing Accelerator Fund most often pays for in other cities; and we’re already looked to as a leader in these areas. So what’s next?


In Edmonton we have a unique opportunity to build the kind of infrastructure we need, and to get more housing options in our downtown and priority growth areas.


This fund wouldn’t last long if it was used to pay for housing directly ($175M / $350,000 per unit of housing = 500 units). So we need to think of it as a foundational piece of a longer-term opportunity – to build our construction, infrastructure, and permitting capacity, and to make sure we have sustainable and complete communities.

We're looking forward to working with the City on this. In the meantime, every sector and every level of government needs to consider Edmonton's future growth in their planning.

Edmonton needs to seize this opportunity to welcome the next 100,000 Edmontonians.


Anand Pye is the Chief Executive Officer of NAIOP, Edmonton’s commercial real estate development association.


NAIOP represents developers of office, retail, mixed-use and industrial buildings. The organization hosts a provincially certified education program, mentorship, and industry events. Anand leads the organization’s outreach and advocacy, connecting developers with other thought leaders locally and around Canada.


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