To open, the Calgary Foundation’s 2023 Quality of Life Report says that “we’re a city split by two truths.”
People love living in Calgary, but they say it’s become harder to afford it.
The annual report put forward by the organization examines a wide range of questions pertaining to how Calgarians feel about life in the city.
The survey was based on the survey responses of 1,000 Calgarians and were selected randomly based on demographic quotas. Similar surveys of this size have a margin of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
To start, 69 per cent of people in Calgary rate their happiness as good or excellent, which is up five per cent from both 2021 and 2022. Rising costs, however, are putting a squeeze on Calgarians – and it’s impacting how they feel.
Taylor Barrie, VP of Communications with the Calgary Foundation, said that a big theme – and the title of this year’s report – is what people are missing in their lives.
“While there continues to be a real sense of optimism in our city, there are some glaring challenges, especially when it comes to the ability to afford basic needs,” she said.
Between one-third and one-half of Calgarians reported challenges in affording healthy foods. They also said they’re eating less food, buying fewer fruits and vegetables and serving smaller portions. Further, 72 per cent said they’re eating out at restaurants less often.
More than one-third of parents are skipping meals to ensure their families are fed, and roughly one-third skip meals as a family.
Housing and safety
The report also looked at two issues that have been at the forefront in community conversations over the past several months. The Quality of Life survey showed that housing and public safety were also major challenges.
Four in 10 Calgarians surveyed said they can’t afford to buy a home, the report showed. One-third of people made spending sacrifices in other areas to pay a mortgage, and more than half of renters felt pessimistic about home ownership.
Recently the Calgary city council approved a housing strategy to help address supply in both the market and non-market housing space.
“It’ll be interesting to see how strategies like that one play out,” she said.
“I think this is a really complex problem that’s going to require multiple people at the table to try to address it. The city strategy being one such part of that.”
Barrie said that it’s really challenging right now for those Calgarians with retirement on the horizon. They are unable to save for the future and afford potential rent increases. She said 45 per cent reported they aren’t able to afford rent.
On the public safety side, eight in 10 are concerned about safety in the city. That’s up seven per cent from 2022 and 15 per cent from 2021. Nearly nine-in-10 Calgarians feel uncomfortable or out of place because of religion, ethnicity, skin colour, gender, accent or sexual orientation. That’s up from 75 per cent in 2022.
As a funder, Barrie said it’s tough for the Calgary Foundation to move the needle on safety.
“We can do things when it comes to comfort levels and inclusion and belonging and so that’s sort of where we really want to shine the light when it comes to this report,” she said.
“Yeah, Calgarians are feeling unsafe. I think the bigger flag for us is that if you’re a racialized Calgarian, how you experience safety differently, often worse.”
People still love the city, even young Calgarians
More than nine in 10 like the neighbourhood they live in. Nearly the same believe Calgary is a good place for young people to live, and a good place for families.
While in recent years there’s been a narrative that young people are leaving Calgary in droves, only 29 per cent of the youth respondents in the survey said they planned on moving from Calgary. That’s down from 40 per cent in 2022 and 60 per cent in 2021.
“Calgary has something special when it comes to community connections and neighbourliness,” Barrie said.
“There is a real sense of optimism about our economic future, despite this really challenging time that we’re all living through right now.”
Barrie said that some of the challenges Calgary is experiencing are not unique to this city. They’re issues being experienced across Canada.
“Perhaps younger people are seeing that and looking at the big picture, that Calgary has a lot to offer,” she said.
There’s work still to be done in Calgary to improve the quality of life for a wider range of Calgarians, Barrie said.
“I think the big takeaway is we’ve got some big systemic problems,” she said.
“When we look at the history of this quality of life report, we know there’s a real correlation between belonging and our ability to afford the basics. That’s always sort of when we see this growing gap, and rising concerns and rising inability to afford life that can often bleed into feeling more disconnected and then the resulting challenges that go from there.”
The Calgary Foundation has been presenting the Quality of Life report for Calgary since 2007.