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EDITORIAL: Addressing affordability requires all levels of government

Affordability is the most pressing matter for residents in the Bow Valley. As the cost of nearly everything drastically increases, people are being priced out of the community. The steady exodus of people leaving for other pastures has become commonplace, with the majority of locals knowing someone who has had to move.

Affordability is the most pressing matter for residents in the Bow Valley.

As the cost of nearly everything drastically increases, people are being priced out of the community. The steady exodus of people leaving for other pastures has become commonplace, with the majority of locals knowing someone who has had to move.

The latest eye-popping number is the living wage for Canmore that was released by the Alberta Living Wage Network. Coming in at $37.60 per adult in a two adult, two children household, the cost to survive in the region can be daunting.

For a single adult who is employed full-time who rents and doesn’t have dependents, the living wage is $23.70 an hour.

Though it’s not a full indicator of what each person should be making, it’s a sign of the expensive cost to live in the Bow Valley.

To the credit of local municipal councils, steps have been taken in addressing the high cost of living.

Community housing projects in both Banff and Canmore offer a select few the opportunity to purchase homes when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the cost. Ten new affordable homes were recently made available in the Peaks of Grassi and the Aster in Banff will have 33 homes available that previously were not on the market.

The Town of Canmore will soon be offering increased bus service at its free fare and Banff council is set to potentially do the same early next year when its budget is decided. The opportunity of free public transit can make residents – especially those in a lower tax bracket – less encumbered by the need to own a vehicle.

Community groups such as Bow Valley Food Alliance, Canmore Food Recovery Barn, Banff Food Rescue provide options for food, particularly as the price has soared and is expected to continue in 2022.

But while these local programs help, without federal and provincial government help it’s like taking a pickaxe to the iceberg to save the Titanic.

The federal government-led childcare agreement with the provinces is expected to see about $3.8 billion pumped into Alberta to significantly lower childcare costs by 2026. While the province is reducing fees as part of the deal, it is however cutting childcare subsidies for low-income families in 2022, largely impacting any planned savings families may have expected.

The province released its 10-year strategy to increase affordable housing by 25,000 units after the Affordable Housing Review Panel made its recommendations.

However, there have been calls of concern over the worries of privatizing some of the existing housing since the UCP strategy will see some existing units sold. The slashing of housing supports such as the additional shelter allowance has led to those most in need to needlessly struggle.

The Alberta Seniors and Community Housing Association highlighted how the average age of the province’s affordable housing is more than 35 years old and how the province has significantly cut to the point that the agencies who control affordable housing have 10.8 per cent less in their budgets than they did in 2018.

The province’s failure to meet the average of what other provinces put into the National Housing Strategy has led to Alberta leaving $187 million in federal funding on the table.

The federal government has been cutting cheques through its rapid housing initiative and municipal leadership has been seeking empty public land to build on, but years of little action have left the feds playing catch up.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland warned earlier this month it will take years to address the housing problem, particularly as housing costs soar and are unaffordable to most.

Across the country, provincial governments have fallen short of instituting rent freezes and eviction bans. The federal government has lollygagged in curtailing homeownership among investors who only own to rent, chewing up invaluable supply.

The Bank of Canada and the federal finance department have also shown hesitation in increasing interest rates and adding stricter mortgage rules on the colossal housing market that’s become an economic force.

The time for action was years ago.

It’s now necessitating the need to act to avoid leaving more people behind.