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In a year when real estate prices have never been higher and millions of Canadians struggle to afford a home, saying you live in Canada’s most affordable real estate market may be attracting envious glances.

And according to the latest RE/MAX housing affordability report, that honor belongs to the residents of Red Deer, Alberta.

The third-largest city in Alberta, almost exactly halfway between Calgary and Edmonton, runs along both the north and south sides of the Red Deer River and features hundreds of acres of parkland, quiet communities, and a downtown area undergoing major revitalization. But perhaps most importantly, the city also has an average home price of $356,799.

While it’s technically not the cheapest market Canada has seen this year — Brandon, Manitoba and Regina, Saskatchewan both have lower median home prices — Red Deer residents tend to have higher household incomes, averaging $77,700 after taxes. This means that a smaller percentage of the income of just over 100,000 residents is spent on housing, making it a more affordable place to live than its competitors in Manitoba.

Red Deer City Hall (The City of Red Deer/Twitter)

A resident of Red Deer, Candy Collins, moved to the city of Alberta with her husband and daughter in April of this year. Collins is from Saint John, New Brunswick, where more than half of their income went to rent, and says it feels like they’ve “hit the jackpot” with Red Deer. For their pet-friendly two-bedroom, her family now pays $1,000 a month — $100 less than they paid in Saint John — and her husband was able to find work earning twice the salary he earned in New Brunswick.

“The rent is cheaper, the gas is cheaper, the groceries are the same or cheaper, and the income has doubled,” Collins says. “It’s the best move we’ve ever made.”

Like any city, Red Deer has its ups and downs. The area offers access to seemingly endless hiking trails and outdoor activities — Collins noted that her family was recently able to camp together for the first time — and the friendly community feel is another big draw for those moving to, or choosing to live in, Red Deer. However, many residents lament the city’s crime rates, and some say they don’t go downtown at all. In a 2019 maclean’s ranking as Canada’s most dangerous places, Red Deer was ranked 10th for its Crime Severity Index – a measure of the severity of police reports – and 37th for its overall crime rate.

Many Red Deer bus stops have a solar-powered button-activated light as an added safety feature. (The City of Red Deer/Twitter)

Yet for many, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, especially when compared to the increasingly unaffordable markets that dominate much of Canada. Interior designer Kym Cole Wowk left one of those markets in Kelowna, British Columbia for Red Deer in June of this year. Wowk is currently looking for a house in town, but rents in the meantime – paying less than half of what her Kelowna landlord charged.

“When we looked here in Red Deer, we found a significant number of properties that met our criteria, but were nervous at first because we had heard that Red Deer had a crime problem and to stay away from certain areas,” Wowk said. “By talking to some of the people who lived here and following some groups on Facebook, we found out that Red Deer as a whole, described as a bad crime, was nothing compared to what we had seen or experienced in Kelowna.”

A price you can’t beat

It’s no surprise that buyers from British Columbia or Ontario would find Red Deer’s home prices otherworldly. In Red Deer, it’s not uncommon to see detached homes — the most common type of home out there — for under $300,000.

Raygan Solotki, originally from BC and now a homeowner of Red Deer, lived in Inuvik, Northwest Territories before moving to Alberta. She says it was a pleasant surprise to find that she could buy a house somewhere more central.

“I was looking for a place with a large backyard that was fenced in for my dogs, at least three bedrooms if I work from home, and just under $300,000,” Solotki said. “Since I was originally from BC, I had kind of resigned myself to living in the north forever, as house prices seem to be skyrocketing everywhere, so I didn’t think I could afford to live in a city. to buy.”

red deer most affordable real estate market
A four-bedroom Red Deer home that recently went up for sale for $249,900. (Royal LePage Network Realty Corp.)

Unlike more expensive Canadian cities, the Red Deer real estate market has remained more stable in recent months, with much more muted highs and lows. As Dale Russell, real estate agent and owner of RE/MAX Real Estate Central Alberta explains, the Red Deer market hasn’t quite seen the pandemic boom that overtook the Ontario and BC markets.

“We didn’t have anything like that until February or March of this year, when we had a little bit,” Russell said. “There was a pent-up demand due to COVID, and then people moved from Ontario and BC back to Alberta, selling their homes there for high prices and coming back here and buying very affordable housing.”

But the surge hasn’t pushed Red Deer real estate to new heights, Russell says. It essentially helped it recover from the price drop from 2015 to 2019 when the price of oil fell. Russell says even in Red Deer he still sees cases of buyers borrowing money from family for a down payment, or having their purchasing power dwindled by rising interest rates, but it’s nowhere near the levels seen in places like Ontario. seen. And while the rental market is a bit competitive right now, finding a home to buy in Red Deer isn’t particularly difficult.

More time to focus on other issues

Not only does Red Deer’s low real estate prices mean it’s easier for people to own a home, but it also takes a major problem off the city’s sign. Unlike municipalities in Ontario or BC, Red Deer City Council meetings are not dominated by discussions about how to address an affordable housing crisis.

“We are not experiencing a very hot, almost entirely speculative real estate market,” said Mayor Ken Johnston. “What we’re looking at, when it comes to housing, is enabling our developers to work with our development community to reduce bureaucracy and enable them to act faster.”

red deer most affordable real estate market
A Red Deer City Council meeting chaired by Mayor Ken Johnston. (The City of Red Deer/Twitter)

One of Johnston’s major projects is downtown revitalization. Residential development is an important part of this, along with tackling crime levels and strengthening local arts and culture communities. Johnston has lived in Red Deer for 26 years and has seen exactly how the downtown area has changed over the decades. A number of businesses have closed their doors and a growing problem of homelessness is worrying residents.

“U.S [homeless] numbers themselves haven’t really increased dramatically, but what’s complicated? [it is]and this is typical for most of us through overpasses, opioid addiction,” Johnston said. often clinically in a good place to house.”

The town operates seasonal shelters, but is currently looking for a location to build a permanent one.

Johnston remains incredibly optimistic about Red Deer’s future and enthusiastically discusses the city’s work to create a new Vision 2040 statement that will build on Red Deer’s affordability, walkability and trail network. He even hopes that Red Deer will earn a spot on the proposed high-speed line from Calgary to Edmonton.

“I think that will have quite an impact on our housing market,” Johnston said. “We will have to weigh very carefully the benefits of using a high-speed train against the affordability of housing that we offer people today.”

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