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Progressive housing policies – and support for them – needed

There is an oft quoted definition of insanity that equates it with doing the same action over and over again and expecting a different result.
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There is an oft quoted definition of insanity that equates it with doing the same action over and over again and expecting a different result.

Well it seems like when it comes to the issue of increasing the amount of affordable housing in the Bow Valley, we might be a bit certifiable.

We crunched the numbers for increasing rental rate trends in Canmore and got some pretty jaw-dropping results this week. 

Between 2016 and 2019,  rental rates for housing  increased by 71 per cent based on information from the Bow Valley Housing Needs Study and Canmore Community Housing Corporation.

That is for one, two and three bedroom units – across the board. 

Of course we didn’t need to do the math to know that housing is increasingly unaffordable in this community, but it should give us all pause to think about what this means for our future.

While there have been efforts to add to the inventory of rental housing in recent years, it is important for leaders in the community to heed these trends and double down on progressive housing initiatives and policies to provide solutions. 

Employee housing and secondary suites have been dicussed as possible solutions for decades and had they been implemented in the 1990s when this community was more than aware of a looming housing crunch we might not find ourselves in the position we are in today. 

Unfortunately hindsight doesn’t help solve the problem, but adding new housing policies and regulations to the land use bylaw will. 

While changing policies is a good first step, what   we now need to do is show up as a community and support these ideas as part of a comprehensive response to what can only be called a crisis. 

How much more unaffordable does it need to get for our economy to begin to truly suffer? 

Of course none of these are the silver bullet to the monster that has been created. A Frankenstein of sorts put together from fading baby boomer ideals like the sanctity of the single-family home neighbourhood, lack of regulation of the housing market and the idea that housing is a commodity, not a basic human right. 

And while it is good to see the private sector come to the table to develop rental housing, we wonder if the Northview project is an example of how parking, or a lack thereof, can undermine efforts to create solutions to this problem.

We are told that reduced parking requirements means more units of housing, but how many parking stalls equals a 1,000 square foot apartment? 

If the overall quality of life is truly diminished for residents because they are constantly scrambling to find street parking is it truly helping to improve people’s lives? 

Most people don’t realize that by having fewer parking spots the owner is unable to condominium-ize the building and sell off the units, ensuring the units remain available for rent, however, is trading parking for housing truly the solution?

It might be August and summer is on our minds, but with the recent housing needs study and the next municipal budget process in December, we hope officials will come forward with a substantive plan and budget to address housing affordability and availability. 

Halfway through this council’s term, it should be at the point now to do more than just study the issue and create policies. 

While the municipality has an important role to play to solve this issue, it would be absolutely game-changing if the province also got in the game by changing the rules around municipal government debt limits to exclude debt taken to create housing that is entirely paid back by the sale or rental of that housing. 

It has been supported by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association as a policy change worthy of consideration that would cost absolutely nothing and help create more housing. 

Now that’s a real solution if we ever heard one.



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