Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dinner with the Mayor

I live in Red Deer.  Population >100,000.  But it has a very deeply invested community who really love this place and carry it on our shoulders.  Red Deer is our little secret - the 7th most entrepreneurial city in Canada, 8th best quality of life in North AND South America in cities under 100,000, has the 2nd busiest regional airport in Canada, and is... well, awesome.

As President of the Canadian Home Builders' Association, Central Alberta Chapter, I had the chance to sit and listen to an Economist from CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation), Regine Durand, and the Mayor of Red Deer, Morris Flewwelling, give an economic forecast on our fine city this evening.

I also got to have dinner with our Mayor.  Something that not every 29 year-old flooring scheduler has the opportunity to do - definitely not something I could do if I had moved to Edmonton or Calgary, or stayed in Langley, BC.  So that was neat.  We swapped stories about cross-border shopping, and he and my wife talked shop (she's a city employee).  If you're wondering what to expect for 2012, I'll try to synthesize the 2 messages I heard this evening.  I hope I get it right.  I was scribbling pretty fast to get the details down...

Home construction will probably increase because there are less homes for sale on MLS (by, like, 45%).  Prices aren't expected to increase much in the next year, but more jobs are being created ($3.5 BILLION of projects in the pipe for Central Alberta) and there is a 'decent' supply of lots in town (as long as they're ready in time) - about 600 lots over the next year, if CMHC is right.

MLS resale home sales are expected to increase due to an increase in average income, lower holding costs (meaning, lower mortgage rates), and a decreased gap between cost-to-rent and cost-to-buy (it costs about $600 more/month to own a house in Red Deer than to rent one - down 13% from last year alone).  And it's still pretty dang affordable to buy a house: average house price in Canada is 7 times your annual income.  In Red Deer, it's only 4 times your annual income.

So, as Mayor Flewwelling said, Canada is very likely the best place in the world to live right now.  If you live in Canada, you want to live in Alberta; and if you live in Alberta, Red Deer is the place to be.

Red Deer is working on branding itself.  It's focusing on a few key issues: Movement (not just cars, but bikes, feet, scooters, roller blades, and cross country skis); Design (downtown and new subdivisions), Economic Development; Dialogue (open houses and 'Town Halls' don't work like they used to - so how do new citizens engage?); Identity (what is Red Deer's Brand? Trails, being a business hub for a big service area?  our community planning?); and Safety - (fighting the Macleans Magazine 4th most dangerous city rating).

Want to have a say in what goes on here?  Call your councillor.  Find your way into the conversation.  I know I have some things that need to get heard.

Are you a non-Red Deerian reading this?  Well the secret's out.  We might have cold weather, but guess what?  We're pretty awesome here.  And there's really nowhere in Canada where the weather isn't a 'con' in the decision to move there.  So come get a job.  And stay, because you'll love it.  Like I did.

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