u-haul Photo: Ryunosuke Kikuno / Unsplash

Attracting newcomers with affordable housing and employment initiatives, Alberta saw increased inter-provincial migration last year, while Calgary strengthened its status as one of Western Canada’s top move-in destinations.

According to the annual U-Haul Growth Index, Alberta led the country in one-way customers during 2021, followed by British Columbia and Ontario.

The province saw a 33 per cent year-over-year increase in one-way U-Haul truck arrivals last year, while departures rose just 29 per cent. More than 50.8 per cent of all U-Haul traffic in Alberta was inflow.

“There are initiatives in Alberta that are creating more job opportunities and attracting residents,” said Naga Chennamsetty, U-Haul area district vice-president of Western Canada, in the report. “In the last year, we have seen lot of movement into Alberta. More communities are developing in and around major cities.”

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Calgary was the province’s top destination for do-it-yourself movers. After failing to place among the top 25 Canadian cities in U-Haul’s move-in rankings in 2020, Calgary vaulted to fifth last year.

Ontario markets — North Bay, Belleville and Greater Sudbury — held the top three spots, reflecting a shift away from major urban centres to more affordable outlying areas. Quebec City (fourth) and Kelowna-West Kelowna (sixth) were the top growth cities in Quebec and British Columbia.

Kingston claimed seventh place, while Red Deer-Lacombe, Owen Sound-Port Elgin and North Vancouver rounded out the top 10. Medicine Hat-Redcliff (15) and Airdrie (19) were the only other Alberta markets to rank in the top 25.

The migration data coincides with a record-setting year for Calgary home sales. According to the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), transactions through its Multiple Listing Service totalled 27,585 in 2021, an increase of 71.5 per cent from the previous year.

Besting the previous record (27,193) set in 2006, annual sales exceeded 20,000 for the first time since 2014. The numbers also represent a significant increase from pre-pandemic activity levels. Calgary posted a total of 16,344 transactions during 2019.

Housing affordability could be one reason for the influx of new residents. The CREB reports Calgary’s benchmark price was $451,467 by the end of 2021.

In its Canadian Housing Market Outlook for 2022, RE/MAX Canada noted that Calgary shifted from balanced conditions to a seller’s market in 2021, and expects the city’s MLS sales to increase four per cent year-over-year, with prices rising 2.5 per cent.

“This is attributed to heightened demand prompted by the inter-provincial migration trend that took place throughout 2021, which saw many homebuyers from Ontario and British Columbia driving demand high, while supply remained low,” the report said.

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