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Affordable housing task force clears 1st hurdle at Calgary city committee

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A Calgary city committee has endorsed the idea of launching a task force to explore housing affordability as well as increasing affordable housing in the city.

The proposal was brought to the city’s executive committee on Tuesday in a notice of motion from councillors Courtney Walcott, Gian-Carlo Carra and Kourtney Penner.

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The notice of motion asks city administration to build a workplan and budget request to support the work of a Housing and Affordability Task Force as well as a Housing Security Commission to be brought back to council for budget discussions later this year.

“We are trying to figure out where the city works within the housing continuum. In particular, we often really focus on the affordable housing,” Walcott told committee.

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“But we neglect to actually have the discussions, collect the information and actually assess all the other policies that the city has in play that impact housing affordability, the cost of rent, the ability to help people transition from the shelter system.”

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According to the notice of motion, the task force would bring back a report and recommendations related to increasing, measuring and managing housing affordability and affordable housing across the city.

Walcott told committee the task force would allow the city to “get ahead” of an ongoing housing affordability crisis in other cities across the country.

“We actually have to be able to get the public involved, get experts in the industry, get city administration together to determine what is the best path forward to ensure housing across that continuum maintains its affordability for Calgarians and increases its affordability for those who simply find Calgary may not be affordable,” Walcott said.

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The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines the housing continuum as an approach that follows a linear transition from homelessness to homeownership and includes housing from social housing to market home ownership.

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According to a report from Vibrant Communities Calgary, 81,240 households in Calgary are in need of affordable housing because those households spend 30 per cent of their income on shelter and earn less than $63,267 annually. That number is expected to grow to 100,000 households by 2025.

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The notice of motion also describes the work of the proposed Housing Security Commission, which would include teaming up with supportive housing providers, the Calgary Housing Company, emergency shelters, attainable home ownership providers, as well as the provincial and federal governments to improve outcomes for Calgarians looking for supportive housing.

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The notice of motion was carried nine votes to two in committee, with Coun. Dan McLean and Andre Chabot opposed.

“Housing, as well as income support, is definitely a provincial responsibility,” Chabot said. “I see that we can play a significant role in assisting and facilitating affordable housing to occur.”

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Chabot said he’d rather see the city sell off land at below market cost to make way for affordable housing rather than “taking a lead on providing that affordable housing.”

The notice of motion asks city administration to also report back to council in the first quarter of 2023 with a review of all city-owned land parcels to “ensure broad consideration for the non-market land sale and modification of relevant corporate policies and practices.”

The notice of motion will now to go city council as a whole for a final decision.

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