BUSINESS
03/28/2019 13:13 EDT | Updated 03/28/2019 15:40 EDT

North America’s Most Affordable Major Housing Market Is .. Calgary

A decade-long housing slump finally pays off, sort of.

edb3_16 via Getty Images
An aerial view of downtown Calgary. The city ranks has the most affordable housing market of any major metro area in the U.S. or Canada, according to Zoocasa.

Affordable housing might be the one reason Canadians still envy their southern neighbours these days (a four-bedroom villa in Houston for $300,000, anyone?), but it turns out there may be nothing to envy there, either.

According to a new survey from real estate site Zoocasa, Calgary is the most affordable major housing market in the U.S. or Canada.

The survey looked at the 30 largest metro areas in the U.S., and the five largest in Canada. It compared the median household income against the income you would need to buy a median-priced house.

Watch: The extreme measures Canadians go through to buy a home. Story continues below.

And as it turns out, residents of Calgary have the largest income "surplus" of any of those cities. A household with a median income in Calgary earns US$30,298 more than it needs to in order to afford a median home. (All the figures in the study were in U.S. dollars.)

Calgary's house prices don't look particularly low when compared to other mid-sized Canadian cities, but the city has a very high median income, thanks to high-paying jobs mainly related to the oil industry.

Residents of Montreal and Ottawa also enjoy a "surplus" of US$4,161 and US$16,326, respectively.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, a median household earns US$74,285 less than it would need to afford a median house.

Zoocasa/HuffPost Canada

Notably, while other surveys have indicated Vancouver is the least affordable market in the U.S. or Canada, this one suggests that the city is only number two on this list, with San Francisco taking the cake.

San Franciscans would need to earn US$140,003 more than they do today to afford a median house. Ouch.

Good news for San Franciscans, though: Home sales there are slowing down, meaning lower prices could soon be on the way. (Well, that's good news for buyers, anyway.)

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If Calgary's housing market is affordable, it may have to do with the fact its real estate market has been going through a soft patch for more than a decade, since the financial crisis of 2008-09.

And lately things have turned for the worse. Home sales in the city fell to their lowest point since 1996 at the end of last year, when an oil price slump hit Alberta's economy. It had the fastest-falling detached home prices of any major Canadian city in 2018.

But even before that, there was little upward pressure on house prices in this market. According to the Teranet-National Bank house price index, Calgary house prices are still below the peak they reached in October, 2014.

Toronto affordability looks sort of 'normal'

The Zoocasa survey found that, despite the massive run-up in house prices in Toronto up to 2017, the city is only mildly unaffordable when compared to others. The median Toronto household would have to earn US$19,121 more to afford a median home. (The median price includes condos.)

That places Toronto in the middle of the pack, with similar levels of unaffordability to Miami.

By this measure, Toronto remains more affordable than Boston, Los Angeles or New York. Other measures in recent years have suggested that Toronto is less affordable than those cities.

For its calculations, Zoocasa assumed a 4.5-per-cent mortgage rate for U.S. mortgages and a 3.75-per-cent rate for Canada, roughly reflecting the current rates in those markets. It assumed a 30-year timeline for repayment. That might make Canadian cities look slightly more affordable compared to their U.S. peers, as insured mortgages in Canada are limited to 25 years.

Zoocasa