Calgary council rejects affordable housing recommendations, faces criticism

The decision of Calgary city council to reject a plan aimed at improving housing affordability has been met with swift criticism.

Coun. Kourtney Penner took to Twitter following the 8-7 decision Tuesday, voicing her disappointment, saying, “I have no words for this awful outcome. Citizen research shows the number one service Calgarians ask us to invest more in is affordable housing. I’m holding back tears at the failure of Calgary city council to ignore best recommendations to make life more affordable for all Calgarians.”

The Housing and Affordability Task Force was established to enhance approaches to improving housing affordability and increasing access to affordable housing.

It established six recommendations, focused on growing and diversifying the city’s housing supply and improving living conditions for people living in rentals, among other things, which were presented to council.

All recommendations were ultimately voted down.

Local affordable housing advocate for Indigenous people and executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, Katelyn Lucas, told CityNews she was disappointed city council rejected the plans, adding that housing, or lack thereof, is connected to other problems Calgary is facing.

“Until they address the housing problem, we’re going to have people on C-Train platforms causing havoc due to addiction because they have no place to go,” she said. “Homelessness is increasing dramatically.”

Lucas adds she hopes council takes an in-depth look at the affordable housing recommendations and brings them forward again.

Even Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner got in on the conversation, saying on Twitter that the ‘catastrophic’ housing shortage across the country is exacerbating social issues like homelessness, addiction, violence, and crime.

“Every leader at every level of government must make housing a priority, and every citizen must understand that we cannot address broader social problems without addressing housing. This crisis means that we need to build housing of every sort, everywhere,” she wrote, in part.

“This fact also means that the politics that have always governed housing, the sympathetic nods about building affordable housing while pandering for NIMBY [not in my backyard] votes, needs to stop,” Rempel Garner continued. “And to this, I am explicitly referring to the members of Calgary’s City Council who rejected the housing affordability task force recommendations.”

In an interview with CityNews, Rempel Garner called the vote “embarrassing,” “unacceptable,” and “ridiculous.”

She says the decision is lacking in compassion.

“As somebody who lives in a multi-family unit surrounded by families of all different walks of life in central Calgary, I live safely and happily, and I reject NIMBY notions,” she explained.

“This is unacceptable. We need to build more houses. This is ridiculous. Everybody on council who voted against this needs to give their head a shake, seriously.”

The NIMBY label was also applied to council by Lucas, who says councillors are missing the fact that housing is at the core of other serious issues.

“We’re just increasing the social problems and the dependency that’s required by the city, with them not having an eye on increasing affordable housing and taking some bold action,” Lucas told CityNews.

Negativity surrounding the decision was widespread, especially on social media. With many noting the city recently committed $830 million to build a new event centre.

-With files from Darren Rathwell

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