First of all, an apology to anyone out there who has loyally read my blog. The reason I haven't posted in a few weeks is that I haven't had Internet access at home until today.
So, I'm back in Canmore. Great town to visit, not so great to live in. My family moved here when I was ten, and I lived here full-time until 2001, when I left to attend the University of Alberta. I have always ended up returning to Canmore in the summers, despite my best efforts to find work elsewhere. My parents left town last fall, but both my sister and I returned in April.
So, I'm sharing a basement suite with a German denture technician facing the 1A. I start my real job on the 24th. Right now, I'm working in the bakery of the local Sobeys. The job sucks, but at least I'll be out soon.
I worked at the front desk of the local Howard Johnson last summer, but they weren't hiring this year. I cut through their parking lot fairly regularly (it's the shortest way from my house to downtown) and it always seems to be really empty. I think that this is partly due to the fact that tourist season hasn't really started yet and partly due to the fact that some genius built the place right next to the train tracks.
So about my new job. I just signed away my soul for the next six months to the Fairmont corporation. On May 24th (five days after the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
) I start work at their laundry facility in Canmore. Fortunately, I was able to get a job in the shipping and receiving/quality control department. I'd prefer not to spend the next six months feeding towels and sheets into machines.
My first weekend back in town, I visited the annual trade fair. Canmore is usually thought of as a tourist town, but there was nary a tourist business in sight at the trade fair. Almost all of the booths were for construction or home improvement materials. While I was looking around I had an epiphany. Canmore's economy is not primarily based on tourism. Sure, there are tourist businesses. But the real money is not in tourism, but in construction and real estate. So the Canmore economy should be just fine as long people continue to move here.
The problem is, that the houses that are being built aren't cheap. A one bedroom condo will cost you at least one hundred fifty grand. For a condo that you could actually fit a family into, you might be able to get away with spending three hundred grand at the barest minimum.
But, let's say you want to own the land your house is built on, not just the house itself. Buildings tend to depreciate in value over time, while the land they are built on may or may not depreciate depending on its location. To buy an actual house, you would have to spend over four hundred grand. Most nicer houses run at five or six grand, and houses selling for over a million are not uncommon.
It is possible to spend this much on a house in most cities. However, most cities also have houses that cost less than this. Canmore doesn't.
Very few Canmore residents can afford to buy a house now. High level management jobs are almost unheard of and even professional position are relatively rare. Most of the town's population works in the tourism sector, which tends not to pay very well. Many businesses find themselves compelled to provide staff accomodation, but no one in their right mind would want to spend much time living in your typical staff accomodation. They typically have two, or even three people sharing the same bedroom.
But even those at the management level cannot afford to buy. I personally know hotel and restaurant managers who rent. I'm one of the lucky ones. I managed to get a decent job. But, there is no way that I am going to be able to afford a house here. Indeed, about the only people who are able to afford houses in Canmore made a whole pile of money somewhere else. I don't know how long I'll stay here, but I don't plan on settling in Canmore for life.
Right now, the economy is relatively hot. It will only stay this way, however, if people continue to build and buy houses here. If they stop doing this, because, for example, interest rates go up, the town's economy is in deep trouble.