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Comprehensive approach to housing needed

The future economic success of our entire valley is contingent upon what happens to address our current shortage of affordable housing. Each year, it gets worse.

The future economic success of our entire valley is contingent upon what happens to address our current shortage of affordable housing.

Each year, it gets worse. More friends and neighbours give up the struggle to make ends meet in the most expensive place to live in the entire province of Alberta and one of the most challenging housing markets in all of Canada.

Challenging unless you have a few million or make well into the six figure range to purchase a single family home. Other forms of housing are following the trend of becoming increasingly out of the price range for many.

While the federal government announced incentives for first time home buyers this week, but its parameters set out that households must earn less than $120,000 and the homes cannot be more than $565,000 for it to apply.

In the hottest real estate markets, like Canmore, this will do little to help alleviate any of the pain our community is experiencing.

The recently released, and long awaited, housing needs study this week gives our communities a glimpse into the number of units of different forms of affordable housing we need to stem the bleeding.

It goes beyond sentiments that take the convenient cop-out of making this an issue of individual responsibility. The “if you can’t make it here, you should leave” mentality.

Beyond the fact that more and more it is harder to eke it out in the valley, is the fact that a workforce is vital to the valley’s economic success. No housing, no workforce, and a struggling economy.

Given how critical housing is to the success of the business community, it is surprising that those tasked with compiling data to understand the future housing needs of the valley found little interest from it to share data on employee housing and staff accommodations.

Because this issue is one that goes beyond just one level of government and requires all who have a position on the chess board to contribute toward providing housing.

It is only through a spectrum of types of housing that we can sustain our social fabric, without it be bankrupting the future of a vibrant and happy local community.

At the federal level, even though incentives and mortgage policy changes like the stress test don’t make it any easier to own a home here, there are funds available for housing ideas like the YWCA Banff’s courtyard project. It would be great to see more applications for federal funding made and awarded.

The most underfunded and under addressed area that is completely a provincial responsibility is the subsidized or social housing inventory in the valley.

The last time units of this type of housing was added was in the 1990s in Canmore, where the entire local inventory is located. With the increased need for this type of housing plainly evident through an evening stroll through Vanmore – it remains a glaring need for the province to provide now more than ever.

Canmore has taken the lead to address a middle income need for housing through Canmore Community Housing Corporation’s Perpetually Affordable Housing rental and ownership models. As to what the next CCHC project is, not much is on the docket as decision makers were waiting for the needs assessment first. Banff has the Banff Housing Corporation, and a clear focus on its next project on Cave Avenue.

Let’s hope as the deep dive of just how unaffordable it is to live in this valley sinks in, the business community has a change of tune as to being part of this conversation. Knowing how many units of staff accom or employee housing is out there can help with planning future projects and initiatives.

When we work together and take a comprehensive data informed approach, well we can really do anything including tackling the housing issue in the Bow Valley.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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