Trudeau, Smith weigh in on what’s next for Calgary’s newly-approved housing strategy – Calgary


Calgary’s strategy to address housing affordability has received the green light from city council, with work to begin implementing the plan getting underway at city hall.

The strategy was approved 12-3 by city council on Saturday after a marathon three-day committee meeting that included feedback and lived experiences from more than 160 Calgarians.

Much of the public hearing echoed data in city report that showed more than 84,000, or one-in-five households in Calgary were struggling to afford their housing.

Arthur Gallant, who lives in the Beltline, is one of those Calgarians who is seeing several back-to-back rent increases eat up more of his paycheque.

“My rent is 62 per cent of my after-tax, after-deduction income,” he told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council approves strategy to address housing affordability'

Calgary city council approves strategy to address housing affordability

The situation has Gallant, who works a full time job, supportive of the city’s housing strategy. He came to city hall on Saturday to watch the debate between councillors ahead of the final vote.

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“I like how council is taking a long-term view — this is something that should’ve been done years or decades ago,” Gallant told Global News. “But there’s no short-term view. I didn’t see anything in the strategy that addresses people like me who are struggling to pay rent.”

Titled Home is Here, the city’s plan includes around 80 recommendations and action items to help increase supply of both market and non-market homes over the next several years.

According to the city’s manager of housing solutions, Tim Ward, work is underway on provisions in the strategy that don’t require budget funding or further council approval.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau, Smith weigh in on what’s next for Calgary’s newly-approved housing strategy'

Trudeau, Smith weigh in on what’s next for Calgary’s newly-approved housing strategy

Ward said that includes a program to help Calgarians pay for first and last month’s rent, tenant services support and further research into some of the more exploratory recommendations related to equity-deserving populations.

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“The hard work starts here,” Ward said. “We’ve got a lot of work now to do to implement the strategy.”

Ward said there will be requests for funding for other recommendations during budget deliberations in November, with other action items coming to council for approval over the next year.

Maggy Wlodarczyk, with the Calgary city centre chapter of ACORN, called the strategy’s approval “an excellent first step,” adding that “more work needs to be done” to advocate the province for more tenant supports.

“ACORN is asking for a lot of these recommendations to be paired with tenant rights,” she said. “A lot of these recommendations, they sound good on paper, but if they’re not paired with some sort of tenant protection, they’re not going to help in the long run.”

Click to play video: 'Zoning dominates discussion on second day of Calgary’s housing strategy hearing'

Zoning dominates discussion on second day of Calgary’s housing strategy hearing

However, the province won’t consider implementing rent control, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Monday.

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“If you’re trying to convince more developers to invest more money into building more rental housing and then saying your reward for that will be the government will step in at any point and limit the amount you can charge, it’s going to have the exact opposite effect,” Smith said

Smith said the province is prepared to increase rent supplements, and is open-minded to repurposing provincial land for housing development and using tax levers to help incentivize new builds.

“Attainable housing is just as important as affordable housing,” Smith said. “You need to have young people know that, aspirationally, they’re going to be able to buy a house.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s Affordable Housing Crisis'

Calgary’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Smith noted the province is looking to do more to address a shortage of labour in the building trades and hopes to see work to speed up the permitting process for new developments.

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The housing strategy also getting attention in the House of Commons Monday, after the federal housing minister sent a letter to Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek tying federal housing money to council’s decision on the plan.

“Just this Saturday, the City of Calgary approved a plan for reducing zoning red tape and building housing by public transit,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “This is step in the right direction.”

It remains unclear when Calgary could see an approval for its application for the Housing Accelerator Fund.

The recommendation on zoning reform remains a sticking point for some city councillors and will require a public hearing and bylaw change.

“Some of these things are going to be talked about ‘in silo’ to the housing strategy and one of them happens to be blanket rezoning,” Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said. “We won’t have a conversation until probably early next year.”

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The strategy sets targets to build 3,000 new non-market affordable housing units annually and 1,000 more market homes than are currently built in the city each year.

“We got some great things approved in the end,” Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian said. “I am pleased, but my enthusiasm is measured, because this work was very hard fought and hard won over a number of months, and there’s still a lot more to do.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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