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Banff's Ti'nu affordable housing fully subscribed

The Town of Banff's affordable 131-unit rental housing development Ti'nu at 547 Coyote Lane is full, with a lengthy waiting list of about 80
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Ti'Nu Apartments. Evan Buhler RMO PHOTO
BANFF – The $23.8 million Ti'nu affordable housing development is full – and there is a lengthy wait list of people wanting to rent a place there.

Banff Housing Corporation officials say apartments will become available from time to time.

“Ti’nu is doing extremely well at 99 per cent occupancy from January until the end of August,” said Carrie Vaugeois, BHC supervisor, at a recent BHC shareholder meeting.

“There’s a lot of people on our waiting list – 80 in total.”

Banff’s 2014 community housing strategy highlighted the shortfall of available and affordable rental housing as one of Banff’s most pressing issues. From 2013-17, there were essentially no vacant rental properties. The vacancy rate hit 1.1 per cent last year.

In 2015, the Town of Banff acquired 14 parcels of land from Parks Canada to build perpetually affordable rental units.

The Town completed construction on eight of these parcels on Coyote Lane to build Ti’nu last year, adding 131 rental units to BHC’s rental portfolio. The project, which is not subsidized by local taxpayers, was made possible through a $12 million provincial government contribution.

Officials acknowledge the community of Banff is still experiencing high rental rates, overcrowding and lack of rental housing availability, but Mayor Karen Sorensen believes Ti’nu is a game-changer.

“It is anecdotal … but is anyone else hearing the private sector maybe has to work a little bit harder to rent units, or that maybe their prices have to come down even a little bit, in order to rent their place,” she said.

Councillor Grant Canning agreed, noting he has had conversations with residents who either rent their basement suites, or rent out properties.

“They still have applicants; it’s just a lot more competitive now maybe than it had been before,” Canning said.

“The sense that I’m getting from them is they’re still able to rent …  but it’s not a supplier market anymore, it’s a bit more of a buyer’s market now.”

Coun. Peter Poole, a businessman who also manages and rents properties, said he is finding the exact opposite, adding there’s ongoing demand for housing.

“From my understanding, the expansion of demand because of increased visitors coming to the town, leading to increased staffing levels in many businesses, is leading to a continued housing under-supply problem because our supply is not catching up to the demand,” he said.

“We’re currently providing too many incentives for ongoing expansion of businesses in contrast to our policy goals in our strategic housing policy, so I’m still concerned that we haven’t as a council addressed the need to balance the housing supply and the housing demand parts of the equation,” he added.

“As a property manager, I still see that it would be quite easy to jack up prices given our housing demand here, so we still have some work to do here as a council.”

The recent Bow Valley Regional Housing needs study estimated that 513 affordable housing units would be required in Banff by 2027.

Banff’s next affordable housing development will be a price-restricted home ownership project on Banff Avenue. Council directed administration to prepare a detailed scope of work report on the construction of about 29 entry-level units at 338-340 Banff Avenue. BHC purchased the land in 2013 for $1.3 million.

Meanwhile, a 2018 survey of about 500 people showed 74 per cent were currently renting and looking to enter the home ownership market, and 40 per cent considered it extremely important to buy in the next two to four years.

In that same survey, 82 per cent said they have considered leaving Banff to purchase a home.