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Ward 6 - Richard Pootmans

Home is Here- The Calgary Housing Strategy: My Thoughts

 

After two days of public hearings and hearing the concerns of numerous Calgarians at the Community Development Committee, and then discussing the issues with my Council colleagues, I voted to support the Home is Here -The Calgary Housing Strategy. Knowing that some of you agree with my decision, and some of you don’t, I would like to clarify why I chose to vote as I did.

Council heard compelling reasons from many residents why the task force’s recommendations were the right action for moving forward on the housing crisis in Calgary. I feel this comprehensive plan is crucial for addressing housing related challenges in our city and improving the quality of life for residents.  I put forward an amendment to the Strategy recommendations which passed unanimously. It will commit to infrastructure upgrades, services and amenities related to increased housing opportunities by:

1.    Using existing tracking systems to identify which communities city-wide are receiving applications for land use change, development permits, and building permits to facilitate more housing;

2.    Using the data from the tracking systems to understand the additional funding needed for these communities to have appropriate infrastructure, services and amenities to accommodate housing and population growth;

3.    Seeking opportunities to equitably share the costs and benefits of housing-enabling infrastructure[1], services and amenities amongst impacted groups, including the public, the private sector, and the Provincial and Federal governments; and

4.    Building upon Council approved investments in the amount of $259 million made through the Citywide Growth Strategy[2], leverage the standing item on budget at Executive Committee to provide projected investment amounts reflective of anticipated acceleration of housing development and population growth, facilitating the need to deliver infrastructure, services, and amenities in growing communities.

We have all seen the statistics on why the situation that many Calgarians are facing is unacceptable, and why the City must move quickly to provide safe, stable, and affordable housing options for all Calgary residents.  They are compelling reasons, as you can see below:

  • One in five households are unable to afford their current living situation, and 75 per cent of households are unable to purchase a single-family home.
  • Calgary housing rental rose as high as 28% from February 2022 to 2023, which is the highest in all Canadian cities.
  • 5,500+  households are on the Calgary Housing Company Waitlist as of September 2023.
  • The total number of people experiencing homelessness in 2022 in Calgary was 2,782.
  • Calgary’s population has grown by over 42,160 since April 2022. This means we require the construction of more than 138,000 additional housing units, with an additional 110,000 units expected to be needed by 2027.

As an elected official, and seeing these alarming numbers, I feel it is prudent that we provide solutions for Calgarians by acting now.  I understand that change is challenging for many people, but it is inevitable that our communities will change.  Many of our established communities have experienced population declines from their peaks.  The Strategy will encourage renewed growth in neighbourhoods experiencing declines.

Council has ongoing conversations on how we diversify our economy and attract talent to our City. The key to attract labour and increase capital is to prioritize varied affordable development. As a municipality we cannot solely rely on taxpayer money for financing, but must turn to higher orders of government for funding to help us in this time of need. The City applied for the Federal Housing Accelerator Fund. Federal Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser sent a letter to the City with his conditions on our application. He stated, “in order to receive a positive decision from me on your application – you must end exclusionary zoning in your city”. Granted this is a radical departure from what many of us are familiar with, I could not in good conscience allow funding that will help accelerate development construction to slip through our fingers.

I have heard concerns from the Ward 6 communities which are under the Westbrook Local Area Plan and I want to address what the implementation of R-CG would look like, including the timeline.

If Council moves forward with the proposed action to proceed with a base zoning district of R-CG, the following steps would be taken by Administration, commencing this fall, toward consideration of a city-wide land use bylaw change:

  • Preparation: mapping the land parcels subject to change; preparation of notifications; and communication.
  • Notification: Affected landowner mail-out; plain language communication and legal letters; broad public communication on how to participate in public hearing, and advertising.
  • Recommendation: Administration prepares recommendation and report to Council considering public input during the Notification stage.
  • Public Hearing of Council: The public can make their views known to Council, and Council makes the final decision.
    •  Timeline: Administration can complete this work by Q2 2024

Several Actions that may impact the Local Area Plans, such as Actions 1.C.1, 1.C.6, and 1.C.7, will require additional approvals at Public Hearing of Council. These Actions could result in future amendments to the Westbrook Communities LAP, as well as other local area plans. These actions relate to enabling more non-market housing across the city as well as implementing the Residential – Ground Oriented (R-CG) district, which permits R-1 and semi-detached housing as well as row houses as the base residential district across Calgary, and Housing-Ground Oriented (H-GO) district in specific locations. Any policy amendments to implement these actions in the Westbrook Communities LAP would be brought forth for Council’s consideration later following legislated requirements around public notification.

Regarding the lifting of minimum residential parking restrictions, Administration’s recommendation is to focus on the desired outcome of the recommendation, which is to ensure that parking minimums do not negatively impact affordability.  Administration wants to evaluate the best approach to achieve this goal; it may look different depending on the location and land use district, including for R-CG.  We expect the new Land Use Bylaw to come for Council’s consideration by the end of 2024.

I want to thank all Calgarians who engaged in the public engagement process and who provided compelling and thoughtful comments, whether they spoke in Council, sent emails, or called my office. The amount of input surpassed my expectations. To all the members of the taskforce and Administration who tirelessly worked on the Home is Here - The Calgary Housing Strategy, your hard work is truly appreciated. Lastly, thank you to my Council Colleagues for a robust discussion and ultimate approval of the strategy. I look forward to making Calgary a better place to live.

To learn more regarding the strategy go to https://www.calgary.ca/social-services/low-income/task-force.html

 

 

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[1] Housing-enabling infrastructure (Housing Infrastructure): basic facilities, services, systems, and installations necessary or appropriate for the functioning of a housing community, including facilities, services, systems, and installations for water, sewage, power, communications, and transportation facilities such as roads, sidewalks, transit, and multi-modal transportation options.

[2] $259 Million is based on “Supporting Growth and Change Through City Programs” calculations which include: $120M for Mainstreets, $63M for Established Area Growth and Change programs, $16M for Transit Oriented Development, $20M for Local Area Planning, $40M for 5A investments.

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Categories: Affordable housing, Housing Strategy

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