City of Calgary approves amended housing strategy

Calgarians’ voices have been heard after three days of discussion as city council approved its housing strategy Saturday night.

This was after 162 residents spoke with council over three days and 1,366 written submissions were provided.

Many shared their experiences dealing with the issue, saying they’ve gone to extremes such as sleeping in their cars and starving themselves. According to the Housing Needs Assessment report released earlier this month, the average income needed to afford to rent in the city reached $84,000.

Read More: Calgary home prices jump 37% in three years: report

The strategy went through with a 12-3 vote after the Community Development Committee debated 21 proposed amendments.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said in a post on X Saturday that it was “heartbreaking” to hear stories of people “struggling to find and keep a roof over their heads.”

“The Strategy sets a clear path to create 3,000 new non-market homes and assist the market with an additional 1,000 homes per year,” Gondek’s statement on X reads.

“Many of the actions will have significant and immediate impact on housing supply and affordability in Calgary.”

Councillors Dan McLean, Peter Demong and Sean Chu opposed it.

Highlights of the amendments

The mayor says there will be two city-owned sites to quickly establish temporary, transitional housing for families experiencing houselessness.

In addition, there will be a comprehensive process to communicate and work with Calgarians on the proposed re-designation of land across the city.

Gondek says the city will build at least 400 more secondary suites by providing a $10,000-per-suite incentive.

The recommendation also changes the default zoning to Rowhouse-Ground Oriented (R-CG) district, which will allow for single, semi-detached, row and townhouses to be built.

A rowhouse building has more than three units and is located side-by-side, and there can be a secondary suite within.

However, the blanket rezoning to R-CG requires public engagement and council deliberation before any changes can be made.

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More than 60 per cent of residential properties are zoned for only single-family homes.

“One in five Calgary households are currently unable to afford their housing,” said Tim Ward, the city’s manager of housing solutions, in a news release.

“Today marks an important turning point. Approval of the Housing Strategy will have a profound impact on the lives of Calgarians. Implementation of the Strategy will address the housing crisis and support our efforts to build more market and non-market housing.”

And for post-secondary students, $25 million is being utilized for student housing.

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The city also says it will invest in current programs to help individuals in need of housing access funding for first/last rent obligations. It adds that rent control is a decision that can only be made by the provincial government.

Chaz Smith, founder of BeTheChange YYC Homeless Street Outreach, said before the decision was made that it’s time for the housing problem to be addressed.

“Legislation with a deed date would be great because we are talking about a crisis right now, and so we need to slow the radar of folks entering into homelessness until we can build the housing that people want and need,” he told CityNews.

The city says the housing strategy will cost Calgarians nearly $60 million once, $27 million yearly, and $10 million in capital costs per year.

Meanwhile, the city says it will report to the Community Development Committee yearly on progress towards implementation.

-With files from Dione Wearmouth and Silvia Naranjo

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