I am elated that Council passed Calgary’s Housing Strategy this Saturday, after three days of public hearings.
I want this to give hope to Calgarians struggling with housing and affordability. No single one of the Housing Strategy actions is a complete solution; rather, the combined efforts of the intact strategy enables more housing to be built across the spectrum of affordability.
While the work we do as a city will not mitigate all the other external housing pressures, we are choosing to lead and taking action. We will not wait for the Provincial government. We will not wait for the Federal government. We will adjust our polices to enable more housing and that is the step we have taken because it is the right thing to do.
To the 160 Calgarians who spoke and the many more who wrote in support of this strategy; thank you. You have demonstrated that we are more about the Why than the Why Not, more about what we are For, not what we are Against.
Amendments made to the Housing Strategy include:
What happens next?
Related information, resources:
If you are interested in listening to the public hearing, including committee questions, amendments, debate, and decisions related to the Housing Strategy, visit Community Development Committee - September 14, 2023 (escribemeetings.com) (Time to watch: ~35 hours).
~20 min: Land Acknowledgement and opening remarks from Committee Chair, Councillor Penner
~28 min: Comments from the City Manager
~30 min: Presentation from Administration
~42 min: The Public Hearing
~25 hour: questions of Administration, amendments, debate, and decision
You can view the agenda and recording of Special Meeting of Council - September 16, 2023 (escribemeetings.com) where the Strategy was passed by council with amendments:
The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy
City of Calgary’s Housing Needs Assessment
Kourtney's previous statements regarding the Housing and Affordability Recommendations
Related: See Kourtney's statement on Council Approving the Housing Strategy
I ran on a platform about community, about Calgarians. Community is built by people, for people. Community-first as a principle inherently recognizes that we all have something to contribute and that our shared experiences and collective offerings make our city better than any one action by any one person.
Neighbourhoods are a collection of homes, but it is the people who live in those homes that make a community. In our city, people are being left behind in alarming numbers causing stress across communities as people struggle to find or retain affordable housing.
Why is the conversation about housing so critical?
According to the Housing Needs Assessment, Calgarians continue to experience the financial pressures of both affordable home ownership and rent.
The rate of housing need has remained unchanged at 17-18 per cent over the past three decades, however the absolute number of households in need has doubled over that period.
The report highlights the median home price is $495,000 which requires an annual household income of $156,000. However, the median household income in Calgary is $98,000.
For those looking to rent, an annual income of $84,000 is needed to adequately afford average market rent in 2023. That number has increased from $67,000 in 2022.
I encourage you to read through the Housing Needs Assessment to understand how our actions are critical for not just the lowest income earners, but for all Calgarians seeking housing.
How did we get to the recommendations before committee?
In June of 2022, I co-sponsored a Notice of Motion with Councillors Walcott and Carra to develop a Housing and Affordability Task Force. We recognized that housing for all, and how we as a city address the current and looming challenges, needed expert advice. Facing a complex crisis, we recognized the best advice we could act on should be rooted in policy and research. Council approved this direction of the Notice of Motion by a vote of 12-3.
In June of 2023, the recommendations from the experts on the Housing Task Force were adopted by council to be considered as part of the refreshed corporate Housing Strategy.
What is next for Calgary?
A crisis requires swift action and community participation. The solution is a collective understanding and willingness to take bold actions to ensure no Calgarian is left behind.
The Housing Strategy coming before committee on September 14th is a plan for how we, as a city can enable more housing for all Calgarians. This includes both market and non-market housing; City led, developer led, resident led. The strategy incorporates 33 recommended actions from the Housing and Affordability Task Force on matters of planning, budget implications, land use, and a call to everyone to be part of the solution.
No single one of these actions is a complete solution; rather, the combined efforts have the potential to enable up to 1000 new homes annually in established areas, and 3000 new affordable housing units to be constructed across the city each year. By leveraging our actions alongside Federal and Provincial initiatives, Calgary stands to create even more homes for students, seniors, and families.
As Councillor, it is my responsibility to look at not only Ward 11 but the collective situation of the city based on evidence and data to ground my decision for the collective good.
I can’t remember a day in recent months without seeing an article about the challenges of finding housing in our city. Our office has received numerous messages from a diversity of residents sharing their stories of precarious situations due to this housing crisis, seeking information about housing rights and access to affordable housing.
I look forward to hearing your continued feedback on the recommendations in the coming days. I remain committed to making bold decisions so our city can offer opportunity through leading policy towards equity, access, and affordability.
1. Student Retention
For the second year in a row, post-secondary students are raising the alarm about the availability of student housing. Residences are full and housing off campus is limited and costly.
Attracting and retaining students who are key employees for many businesses and future city leaders must be a priority for council. As more students look for seats in universities and as the province looks to open more seats, our housing environment must be able to support students.
2. Economic Attraction
The relocation of large businesses, expansion of companies, or the desire for companies to start up requires the availability of homes for workers. Whether it is Amazon delivery hubs or the next tech unicorn, we need homes across the affordability spectrum to drive economic activity in our city. Recognized by industry leaders, see for yourself the letters submitted to council.
The cost of housing, both rental and ownership has risen drastically in the past three years. As supply decreases the costs to rent or own are going up. Creating more homes to offset the supply pressures are critical to continue to be a city with affordable homes (the ratio of housing cost to income).
4. Long Term Supply
As homes age, their viability, especially from an energy efficiency standpoint, decreases. Creating an environment which allows a quicker lifecycle of homes ensures the supply can be sustained and won’t cause future low-supply stressors on the market.
Currently population growth is outpacing the construction of new homes. Without swift action, low supply will continue to drive higher home and rental prices.
5. Community Vibrancy
Most established neighbourhoods are well below their peak population. New homes increase the likely hood of a base population that can support schools staying open, thriving local businesses, and a population ratio for city services like transit, recreation, and libraries. Walkable communities lead to healthier lives and promote a sense of neighbourliness.
6. National Competitiveness
Calgary is regularly benchmarked against other Canadian municipalities based on home and rental prices but also now being discussed is availability of homes and the pressure those moving here are placing on the market. As people have the opportunity to work from most places across the country, our offerings of cost of living balanced against lifestyle will be measured by those looking to pick their next home. Calgary will only remain attractive so long as we have the home supply to keep prices affordable and the process of purchasing or renting isn’t so cumbersome that people give up trying.
7. Job Creation
Housing retrofits, remodels, new builds, and infills all provide jobs in the housing sector. Trades, architects, designers and decorators, small flooring store operators and installers, just a few among the many who rely on a sector to fill and create jobs. These companies employ bookkeepers, accountants, administrators, and other professionals to support their businesses. Across the city, many local companies from lighting stores to paint stores hire and employ. Our continued investment into creating more housing means these jobs are steady and stable for years to come.
8. Tax Stability
More homes spread out the collection of taxes by both provincial and municipal governments. Currently the biggest driver in rising property taxes are home evaluation price due to market pressures, not tax increases (in 2023 the mill rate was lower than 2022). Due to drastically fluctuating home valuations, the ability to budget becomes increasingly difficult for the City which has led to surpluses, which we know angers residents. More homes in the market in all neighbourhoods stabilizes housing prices as demand can keep up with supply.
9. Choice in Housing
North American wide people are making different choices on the type of home they’d like to live in. Having a market with mixed opportunities in sizes, format, and price ensure all lifestyles contribute to a thriving city. Choice in housing also means different people of different means are likely to have more equitable access to services like schools, transit, parks, and recreation.
10. Aging in Place
Aging in place is about more than staying in your house, it is about the ability to stay in your neighbourhood close to the services that are familiar to you. Many of the communities in our city do not offer a variety in scale and form that allow seniors to move into housing formats near the services they’re most comfortable and familiar with at a price that’s affordable.
People without homes, need homes. People need an address to get a job, open a bank account, sign a phone contract. These are basics many of us take for granted. Housing, with or without supports allows many to start their journey out of homelessness and poverty.
The risk level of people becoming unhoused is very high. With over 6000 people on waitlists across the city for affordable housing, eviction or the inability to resign a lease with a monthly rent increase is a struggle many Calgarians are facing.
On September 14th, Calgary's updated corporate housing strategy goes before Community Development Committee. This is an opportunity for the public to speak to the recommendations.
Read Home is Here: Calgary's Housing Strategy
Thank you to everyone who submitted comments on the proposed RioCan Glenmore Landing Redevelopment and shared those comments with the Ward 11 Office.
The feedback received as part of the engagement process will inform ongoing conversations between Kourtney, the developer, RioCan, and City Administration in acknowledging and addressing the project challenges and opportunities of the project.
The officially submitted comments are being compiled and documented by Planning and have not been shared with us yet. We can state that comments we have heard thus far that relate to such matters as building height, intersection safety, and construction staging timelines are of critical importance.
Compiled feedback and further project information should be available in the fall and as we know more, we will share with the community as well as update the project info page on Kourtney’s website where you can find current information to date.
Kourtney will continue to consider community feedback while evaluating the proposal based on its merits and drawbacks, in conjunction with city-wide policies and goals.
Please find Kourtney’s response to each of the summarized common concerns received by the Ward 11 Office. These common concerns have been shared with both RioCan and City Planning for respective comment/response.
Kourtney’s comment on the proposed development by Glenmore Landing
My role at this time is to continue to consider community feedback while evaluating the proposal based on its merits and drawbacks, in conjunction with city-wide policies and goals.
Overall, I welcome residential development at the RioCan site. It has long been identified as a potential residential growth area. The City continues to try and accommodate the need for new homes across the city without sprawling outwards, and this site is well situated to offer new residents access to established services such as transit, schools, shopping, and recreation.
The initial proposal is not without its flaws and there is much still to be determined and agreed upon. City Planning and I continue to encourage RioCan to refine their proposal and as those amendments are completed, to return to the community for further engagement which will likely occur in fall 2023.
Comment: “The proposed building heights are too high.”
I’ve expressed concerns with the shadowing directly to RioCan and will evaluate their changes as they come forward based on comments from the public and my own observations on the project.
The shadows, sun glare, and privacy concerns of the proposed heights, - particularly of the East towers, are well warranted. I will continue to work with RioCan on heights that are contextually sensitive to the existing community and naturalized areas while still allowing for a viable development.
Comment: “There is not a need for (affordable) housing in this area.”
Affordable Housing is needed throughout Calgary.
This including market rentals, below market units, and dedicated seniors housing. The towers to the West, along 90th avenue are continually sought after and full, indicating good market potential in this area.
It is important that we welcome housing in all forms across the city to accommodate incoming and existing Calgarians.
Affordable Housing, as we commonly use the term, in Calgary refers to units that are rented at below market rate, often managed, and provided through a non-profit housing provider though not in all cases.
The application would be what is deemed mixed-market, meaning the units would be of both below and at market rates.
Comment: “There will be a loss of parking.”
The plan does not propose to take away any existing parking from the site. However, this seems to be an issue requiring clarity from RioCan and I have/will ask for them to communicate to the community.
There is an area of currently underused parking which the developer plans to use for construction staging East of Safeway. The parking lot currently does not fill as there are regularly open spots on the east side of the property. Further, housing on the site will need to provide for a ratio of new parking for their residents and guests which aligns with City policy and will be part of the final land-use agreement.
As a private site, parking for uses such as access to the reservoir pathway are not required to be contemplated in the review. The site is under no obligation to provide free parking for pathway users. That said, this is a reality and RioCan is aware of this benefit their site offers to Calgarians.
Comment: “This will create an increase in traffic that creates an unsafe environment.”
More homes and businesses do indeed bring more traffic. Applications of this size require a traffic impact assessment provided by the applicant which reviews the number of units/proposed population, access by emergency vehicles, commercial truck traffic, along with pedestrian and cycling movement. This will all be part of the ongoing conversations and is standard in the development process.
A site such as this is contained service-wise and with proximity to transit, walking, and cycling should alleviate some of these pressures.
The intersections and access points on site will be reviewed for function and this application provides an opportunity to look towards enhancing these intersections to provide better pedestrian and cycling crossings along with traffic pattern improvements.
I am committed to ensuring this work is completed as part of amenity upgrades that coincide with the development.
Comment: “90 Ave and 14th Street need upgrades due to the ring road connection, so this development is not compatible”
At this time 90 Ave continues to be reviewed for vehicle count, speeds, and safety. There have been upgrades such as lights and overhead pedestrian crossing signals in the past 12 months which have been due to advocacy from our office upon hearing residents’ concerns. Our understanding is that no further upgrades to 90 Ave pertaining to the ring road connection are planned. Administration is the lead on traffic and roads and will be able to offer further information in the coming months.
Comment: The area schools cannot handle the population increase.
Schools in the area are not at capacity. The site is within walking distance to multiple elementary schools and two junior high schools.
Comment: Businesses will be lost.
RioCan’s business model relies upon occupancy in their units be it residential or commercial.
I will defer to RioCan to comment on why compromising the relationship with their tenants is not in their best interests and how construction will be mindful of the need for businesses tenants to stay operational during the construction. No businesses are being moved or displaced to accommodate construction. A more populous area better supports commercial activity, in particular grocery stores.
Additionally, residential towers present the opportunity for further businesses to be part of the site to complement other uses.
Comment: “The construction will take too long.”
Project of this scale regardless of location take time. Per above, RioCan will be looking to protect their existing assets to ensure the site is operationally viable. Thus, mitigating construction disruptions will be critical for them.
I am mindful that the construction could impact the multi-use pathway on the South side of the site, and we will be working to ensure the pathway stays open throughout the duration of the build.
Comment: “This will eliminate green space and impact wildlife.”
The wooded green space to the North is not contemplated for redevelopment. We know this area supports wildlife so I will be discussing this further with RioCan and Admin and asking for mitigations to concerns such as light pollution, sun glare, and sound during and after construction.
The grass berms being proposed to use for construction are not significant in terms of ecology. Tree loss will be compensated according to city policy and new greenery can be part of the requirements in any development permit. I will be asking Administration and RioCan to update their communication to clarify these points.
Comment: “This will negatively impact water quality in the reservoir and/or the ecology of the area around the reservoir.”
There are no indicators that this site could or would impact water quality through development.
Water quality of the Glenmore reservoir is primarily affected by rainfall, runoff, pollutants from users, and upstream activity along the Elbow.
The naturalized areas surrounding the site could be affected by shadows hence why I will be discussing this further with RioCan and Administration to minimize impacts to plant and animal life.
Comment: “This development will negatively impact property value of nearby homes and communities.”
Redevelopment alone does not decrease property values. However, I am concerned about impacts of shadowing affecting property values should they not be corrected which I have addressed with the applicant for change.
Comment: “The increase in density will result in an increase in crime in neighbouring communities.”
Density alone does not increase crime rates and the inference that those residing in the buildings would either be the criminals or attract criminals is not rooted in any fact. There are no evident examples in Calgary where housing has increased crime.
Comment: Regarding climate and carbon mindful builds “Will there be solar, electrical charging stations, bird-friendly windows to prevent collisions? Air purification? Heating methods? Etc”
These are NOT land use application considerations and would have to be discussed at the development permit stage.
In early July 2023, ENMAX Power began a substation safety enhancement project and flood mitigation work along the banks of the Bow River near the intersection of Deerfoot Trail and Bow Bottom Trail in Southeast Calgary. This maintenance impacts a pathway route in the communities of Douglasdale, Douglasglen and Diamond Cove.
City Administration has worked with ENMAX on an appropriate detour; unfortunately, the space around this construction project has few options to reroute, share, or create temporary pathways through the space without exposing the pathway users to hazardous conditions. ENMAX has committed to expediting the work so that Calgarians can enjoy this pathway space as soon as possible.
We confirmed with Administration that the Pathway’s team will work with Enmax to install more signage in order to provide clear wayfinding throughout and to ensure there is more clarity in the routing.
As pathway users in this area, we empathize with frustrations about this closure and look forward to seeing you on the detour!
Stay up-to-date on pathway closures: https://www.calgary.ca/bike-walk-roll/pathway-closures.html
Learn more about ENMAX projects: https://www.enmax.com/projects/sesubstation