After a daylong parade of presentations from city administration, developers and members of the public on Monday, the decision to approve 11 new communities now sits with Calgary city council.
Administration originally recommended that the Priorities and Finance Committee should recommend to council to deny 11 business cases for new communities. Instead, the committee referred a number of amendments and a slightly revised administration recommendation to city council, set to meet on Nov. 2.
Councillors on the committee received 114 letters and heard from more than a dozen individuals during the meeting, nearly all in opposition to the 11 business cases.
“Citizens, when you ask them, know what they want,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday. “They want walkable communities, they want communities where people of different ages and different incomes and ethnicities can all live in the same place where their kids can go to school with different kinds of people and where they can walk to the store.
“And that’s not always what comes to the floor of council when we largely hear from people who are greenfield developers.”
A few members of council presented amendments to take a different approach to approve the new communities.
“Rather than treat this all as a binary thing, to not approve them now but also to do some work… we have a more thoughtful way of thinking about moving forward with potential neighbourhoods,” Nenshi said Monday after the committee meeting.
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra presented one set of amendments, agreeing with administration’s recommendation to pause new communities.
“What I’ve said is, rather than accepting new business cases, why don’t we look at the business cases we’ve accepted and see if we can get the developers to work together to reallocate the amount of growth that we allowed to a smarter place to put growth,” Carra told Global News.
Carra’s amendment seeks to target more development along the 17 Avenue S.E. MAX Purple BRT corridor to eventually connect to Chestermere.
“I think that the developers want that vision too,” Carra said. “It cost avoids building expensive infrastructure like another overpass over the ring road and Memorial Drive.”
Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek said the development of her ward is contingent on infrastructure development that comes with new communities.
“My established communities that are more than 30 years old are reliant on some sort of growth being approved just to the north of Stoney Trail because any of our infrastructure improvements are tied to that growth,” Gondek told Global News. “So that’s the unfortunate situation for my ward.”
Gondek is seeking to shift funding tied to new community growth to established community growth, to fund those existing infrastructure improvements.
Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca sided with developers, presenting an amendment to allow all 11 new communities to go forward as soon as possible.
“Let’s keep investments here in Calgary,” Magliocca told the committee. “Let’s get people working. We’ve got 25,000 jobs on the line.”
During the meeting, the mayor said any jobs associated with new developments aren’t net new jobs but are the same jobs that move from worksite to worksite.
“A real job is created when you have economic activity, when you’re building the tech sector or the financial services sector or the energy sector. That real job is created when that person needs a house to live in,” the mayor said.
“The homebuilding industry follows that and builds the house.”
Committee heard that the 11 new communities would result in a 1.5 per cent tax increase.
The mayor asked developers whose business they’re going to usurp if their business case was approved, given the administration finding that the city has between 12 and 18 years of land supply.
The most recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation housing market analysis released Sep. 21 said complete and unsold houses are trending upward and nearing a historic high. A Moody’s analysis for Brookfield Asset Management released Sep. 23 said that “new single-family homes show dangerous signs of excess supply in Calgary.”
“When we combine that with the fact that we have basically zero immigration this year, the borders are closed and net out migration,” Nenshi said, “it means that we run the risk of bursting a housing bubble that is not a bubble.”
Carra said the city needs to be ready to accommodate people moving to Calgary after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
“We want to house them and accommodate them and provide working opportunities in more and more cost-effective and climate effective and new economy building ways than just conventional growth,” the Ward 10 councillor said.
The former urban designer said the business cases presented Monday aren’t the stereotypical postwar suburbs.
“To be fair, a lot of these business cases are not your grandfather’s suburbs,” Carra said. “They’re new, mixed-use, more dense. But there’s still a ways to go.”