How much progress has Calgary made on its affordable housing strategy?

By Silvia Naranjo and Michael Ranger

A report presented to Calgary city council suggests the city is on pace to meet the recommendations laid out in its affordable housing strategy with some councillors claiming no other strategy has ever moved this fast.

Councillors were presented with a progress report on Wednesday that outlines where the city is at with implementing the strategy that was approved last year. The update comes as the latest numbers show housing and rent is the largest driver of inflation in the city.

Calgary approved the affordable housing strategy last September after council heard the voices of over 150 people over the span of three days. The strategy included 98 recommendations and set a path to create 3,000 new non-market homes and assist the market with an additional 1,000 homes per year.

The city says approximately 80 per cent of the actions in the housing strategy will be initiated by the end of 2024.

“Never has a corporation this size with this many employees come together to expedite a solution as fast as they are,” said Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott. “That has never happened.”

He says it’s proof that people really want to see the strategy move forward.

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean says he remains uncertain about the strategy, which he claims is speeding up densification of existing neighbourhoods but slowing down growth on the edges of the city.

“We seem to be accelerating growth and building multiplexes in our established communities,” he says. “While maybe slow-walking building in our outlying communities. That’s where you can find affordable homes.”

McLean was one of six councillors opposed to blanket rezoning, which was approved by council last week. The new rules mean the city’s base zoning will now allow for townhomes or row homes to be built in most communities alongside single-family homes and duplexes.

Councillors continue to debate the best alternatives to implement the strategy moving forward with Coun. Andre Chabot saying the report only led to more questions.

“The only way to address the need right now is non-market housing,” he says. “To try and address the market housing by virtue of this investment, it’s a drop in the bucket when you consider the private sector is building around $6 billion worth of residential homes annually.”

So far the city says they have been able to provide city-owned land for building and secure funding from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF). The accelerator fund is a $4-billion program first announced in the spring 2022 federal budget.

Calgary and the federal government inked a $228 million deal in November which will fund initiatives aimed at increasing the city’s housing supply.

The Council Advisory Committee on Housing says it will continue to provide advice and recommendations in the coming days to increase equitable outcomes for safe and affordable housing.

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