Edmonton growth expected to slow down, but not stop

Despite tough economic times in Alberta, Edmonton’s city planners say the city will continue growing in 2015 — both up and out.

New neighbourhoods and central core saw majority of growth, mature neighbourhoods didn't fare as well

City officials Kalen Anderson and John Rose say Edmonton is set to continue growing this year, but not at the same pace seen in 2014. (CBC)

Despite tough economic times in Alberta, Edmonton's city planners say the city will continue growing in 2015 — both up and out.

Yesterday saw the release of the city's second growth analysis, Our Growing City. The report shows that, even with the economic slowdown, Edmonton continued to expand last year.

"It was really a banner year for growth," said Kalen Anderson, director of urban policy for the city.

Anderson noted that in 2014, the city saw more than 12,000 new permits for housing units. Despite the city's recent push for more infill in mature neighbourhoods, the report suggests that the suburban fringe and the downtown core continue to draw the greatest numbers.

While central Edmonton is attracting more young professionals, Kalen said, it was still far outpaced by families moving to neighbourhoods on the fringes of Edmonton.

She said while the city has seen a sharp rise in the number of infill projects in the city, it still makes up only 17 per cent of the total housing starts last year.

Even so, Kalen said the infill program has been successful. Neighbourhoods have a natural lifespan, she argued, which starts with growth and then declines as the population ages. She feels that many mature neighbourhoods are now beginning to rejuvenate as new families move in.

"They don't stay the same the whole time," she said.

Weathering the storm

Edmonton isn't expecting the same amount of growth this year, although the city's chief economist is convinced that it will handle the financial downturn better than the rest of the province.

John Rose said Edmonton's economy is more diversified than Calgary or other places in Alberta — he pointed to the public and education sectors, as well as the city's technology industry.

That diversity has helped the city absorb the blow from oil and gas. Still, Rose said the city is counting on oil staying above $60 a barrel going through 2015.

"The elephant in the room is oil prices," he said.

Rose added that the city's manufacturing and engineering industries have also been affected by the slowdown.

He said that means fewer people moving to the city from other provinces. While the city still expects to grow over the next year, he said the pace will be much slower than in 2014.

The city estimates about 2.2 million people will live in the Capital Region by 2044, with 1.4 million living in the city itself.


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