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Banff plans to buy land for $1.3 million for housing project

“From my perspective, and we say it many times, land is king and this opportunity coming up to attach itself to a project we’re down the road on, I just think is a real blessing," said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The Town of Banff plans to buy another piece of land on Banff Avenue for $1.3 million in a bid to add more units to a planned affordable housing development.

On Wednesday (Feb. 12), council approved a bylaw allowing the Town to borrow the money to purchase land at 342 Banff Ave. The decision followed a closed-door meeting in December in which council directed administration to proceed with negotiations to buy the land.

“The debt will be repaid through the sale of housing planned to be developed on the land,” said Chris Hughes, the Town of Banff’s corporate services director, noting it was a short-term, three-year borrow.

The Town of Banff has started the process to develop two lots at 338-340 Banff Avenue, which included the Hockey House owned by the Banff Housing Corporation, for high-density affordable housing units that will be for sale to qualified buyers.

The purchase of the land at 342 Banff Avenue will allow for an estimated increase of 12 units to be developed within the project.

According to a confidential Dec. 16 report, which has now been publicly released, the inclusion of 342 Banff Avenue land in the project would lead to an increase in proposed units from 22 to 33.

“Including this land parcel in the total land available for development would result in a higher net unit yield, and an economy of scale for build costs,” said Sharon Oakley, the Town’s housing sustainability manager.

“It would also allow the Town of Banff to continue to address the housing unit shortfall by increasing the number of overall units.”

The cost of the land purchase to create a 33-unit complex would increase the overall proposed sale price of each unit by approximately 14 per cent from the original estimates that were based on 22 units.

Land cost per unit for 33 units would be $55,883, whereas land cost for per unit for 22 units would be $27,272.

“Administrations is of the opinion that the 50 per cent increase in unit yield would provide a greater benefit to the community as a whole, notwithstanding a 14 per cent increase in proposed unit sale costs,” said Oakley. “All units would still be well below market rates.”

At a Monday meeting, Councilllor Peter Poole flagged some concerns, wanting further financial information on the overall project before moving ahead with a borrowing bylaw. He wasn’t present at the Wednesday meeting when the borrowing bylaw was approved.

Mayor Karen Sorensen voiced strong support for borrowing the money to buy the land.

“From my perspective, and we say it many times, land is king and this opportunity coming up to attach itself to a project we’re down the road on, I just think is a real blessing," she said.

Work on the Banff Avenue site started in fall 2019, including moving forward with geotechnical investigation, site survey, and predesign work. The Town is currently seeking expressions of interest for the project, to be done under a design-build model.



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