The City of Calgary will be looking for new homes for the residents of 210 affordable housing units over the next two years, as officials have decided to decommission the Bridgeland Place housing complex.
The ailing building is fraught with problems, including heating issues, water supply interruptions and high operational costs, the city said Monday. It also needs significant renovations that wouldn’t be possible without significant interruptions to residents’ daily lives.
“This is an extremely difficult decision,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a news release.
“Bridgeland Place has been home to so many people for so many generations. However, we owe it to all of our tenants to provide a decent home, a place of dignity and a platform for the future.
“We can’t do that in this building without severely impacting people’s lives. But our commitment is unwavering. We will work with every tenant to find them a home that fits their needs, and to move in a dignified way.”
The city said the gradual closure of the housing complex will take place over the span of two years, and officials will work one-on-one with the tenants to ensure they find another affordable home that works for them. There are currently 330 people living in the building’s 210 units.
The city, along with the Calgary Housing Company, said it will also work with residents to help manage any stress, anxiety and inconveniences they encounter along the way. All tenants, and the daycare, have been notified about the decision.
The city and CHC have been planning for the anticipated closure of Bridgeland Place, and have been managing vacancies at other affordable housing locations, keeping homes and units empty after tenants moved out.
“Tenants will be our main priority through this closure,” CHC board chair and city Councillor Druh Farrell said.
“We’ll be working hard to alleviate the disruption this will cause and to support them into other housing options. As we do that, we’ll also take our time to look at all of the options before a decision is made as to what the future holds for this building.”
A feasibility study will be done to determine what will be done with the building once everyone has moved out, as well as how to replace the more than 200 affordable homes lost in the process. Recommendations are expected to be delivered to city council by some time in 2022.
The city said it’s working to grow the overall supply of affordable housing options in Calgary, as its facing a “significant shortage” of units and homes.
Officials with the city said the CHC currently has a waiting list for affordable housing units like the ones at Bridgeland Place, and therefore has “very low vacancy for these properties.” However, they didn’t give a figure for how low.
“The turnover of the units in social housing properties has been as high as 20 per cent but has recently declined due to the impacts of COVID(-19),” the city said.
The city said it couldn’t speak to the vacancy rate that other housing providers, like non-profit organizations, are experiencing.
Nenshi said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity to look at social housing in a “new way,” and played a part in the city’s advocacy for the Rapid Housing Initiative, which will bring 176 affordable housing units to the city thanks to federal funds.
However, Nenshi said none of the 11 non-profit proposals submitted for the initiative were approved.
“While there are a number of reasons for it, there really is a chance for us to strengthen our ask for Calgary and for our non-profit affordable housing providers for the next round of funding, which we anticipate will be announced in the April 19 federal budget,” he said.
Both Nenshi and Farrell said part of the problem with maintenance of the city’s affordable housing is that many of the properties are owned by the province and managed by the CHC, which leads to inconsistencies with upkeep. In the case of Bridgeland Place though, the building is owned by the city.
Nenshi called on the province to give comparable money to affordable housing as it does to emergency shelters.