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YWCA Banff breaks ground on affordable housing project

"We have been fortunate enough to incorporate five fully accessible units based on national housing standards. They have the highest criteria and we are really proud of that component as part of our broadening of the spectrum of housing and who this project will be serving." 
20200812 YWCA Construction 0014
Construction at the YWCA in Banff on Wednesday (Aug. 12). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

BANFF – Banff's newest housing development may turn out to be its most energy efficient and affordable one to date.

The YWCA Banff has officially begun construction of its $10.4 million Courtyard Project to develop 33 units of self-contained affordable housing that also incorporates net zero energy efficiency into the design. 

Project manager Steve Crotty said it is a significant project for the YWCA that expands the sprectrum of housing provided and meets the needs of the community in the long term.

"Right now, all the affordable housing that we have [at the YWCA Banff] is communal type housing, where you share kitchens and communal washrooms for multiple residents," Crotty said. "We really wanted to expand our portfolio to incorporate more family-style housing that would be more suitable and affordable.

"The idea was for the Courtyard Project to expand into two and four bedroom units that would reach a broader demographic of our lower income earning population in Banff."

Construction fencing is in place at the YWCA Banff for the project to get into the ground beginning this month. The units will include studio, one, two and four bedroom apartments constructed from modified shipping containers. The expected rental rates will be 20 per cent below market rates, which Crotty said is a benchmark the Y is proud to reach. 

The project was designed to include five fully accessible units and to reach a net zero energy outcome. Crotty said both were important considerations when it comes to the needs of the community into the future. 

"We really spend a lot of time researching a modular construction method that would be focused on net zero," he said. 

By investing in a design that maximizes energy efficiency and aims to be carbon neutral, Crotty said the affordability will be maintained in the long term for residents through lower utility costs. He said it is a rare accomplishment in the affordable and social housing context.

"We know that Banff is one of the lowest-rated communities in the province for accessibility," he added. 

"We have been fortunate enough to incorporate five fully accessible units based on national housing standards. They have the highest criteria and we are really proud of that component as part of our broadening of the spectrum of housing and who this project will be serving." 

While plans for the Courtyard Project began in 2017, its origins date back to the 2014 housing study conducted by the Town of Banff to better understand future housing needs in the community.

Crotty said the report showed there was a lack of affordable and suitable housing, particularly in a community that's residents work primarily in the hospitality industry. 

"The YWCA Banff has been a longtime provider of housing and we had a significant amount of land that was on our existing site and we wanted to be part of the solution to Banff's ongoing and never-ending housing issues," Crotty said. 

The YWCA is providing the land for the project and has leveraged provincial and federal funding sources, as well as loans, to raise the captial needed. Funding partners include Alberta Seniors and Housing Corporation, Energy Efficiency Alberta and the Alberta Rural Development Network. The municipality also waived development and permit fees for the project. 

"The YWCA team is looking forward to starting construction on a project that will expand our existing affordable housing program, which already supports up to 100 Banff residents," said director of operations Rae-Ann Roberts in a press release. "With this exciting step forward, the organization will welcome more individuals and families into secure, affordable, housing that will foster a sense of belonging and community pride." 

The project will also follow all COVID-19 guidelines established by Alberta Health Services and Occupational Health and Safety for the construction industry. 



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Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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