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Calgary may be Alberta’s largest city, but it’s behind other hubs in the province when it comes to paving the way for residential development. In a new Fraser Institute survey, home builders ranked it one of the most regulated municipalities in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor (CEC).

Released on October 25th, the survey saw respondents rank 12 CEC cities on five factors related to residential development regulations: approval timelines, costs and fees, council and community, timeline uncertainty and rezoning prevalence. Calgary came in below average in all categories and was ranked the third most-regulated municipality in the CEC. Edmonton and Red Deer, the other major cities in the CEC, were ranked fourth and seventh, respectively.

According to the Fraser Institute, the results indicate that Calgary is “stifling new home builds with burdensome red tape, compared to more development-friendly suburbs.”

The city received particularly poor marks for timeline length and uncertainty. For instance, the Fraser Institute notes that permit approval times average 13.5 months in Calgary — that’s comparable to Edmonton’s 12.9 months, but much higher than the 7.5-month average in the five least-regulated cities in the CEC. Meanwhile, only Rocky View and Strathcona counties have greater timeline uncertainty.

Compliance costs and fees are also a major issue in Calgary, and typically add up to $27,625 per new home. Again, that’s comparable to Edmonton, where costs and fees come to $32,273, but $5,000 higher than costs and fees in the suburbs surrounding Calgary.

For Kenneth Green, a senior research director at the Fraser Institute and an author of the survey, Calgary’s poor ranking is surprising given the City Council’s stated goal of increasing density. “Calgary city council talks about increasing density yet its policies are doing the opposite and driving residential development into neighbouring municipalities,” he said in a press release accompanying the report.

He added that if Calgary really wants to start increasing density, it should “align residential development regulation with the surrounding regions.” For now, developers interested in getting homes built quickly may want to look to Strathmore — located about 50 kilometers east of Calgary, it was ranked the CEC’s least-regulated city.

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