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Calgary committee pushes new community debate into a second day

Members of a Calgary committee will have to continue debate on a potential eight new Calgary communities built on the city’s periphery.

The clock ran out on the conversation late Monday at the Infrastructure and Planning Committee meeting. They will meet again Thursday.

Committee members have to weigh the fringe growth while trying to balance climate commitments, maintaining budget restraint and housing affordability.

This was a part of creating a growth portfolio that would guide upcoming four-year budget infrastructure decisions. The City of Calgary projects an additional 88,000 citizens in the next four years, needing roughly 44,000 single, semi-detached and multi-family homes.

Administration initially said that five of the 19 warranted committee’s consideration, with another three under consideration “with caution.”

“We believe that what we will discuss today… represents a balanced and thoughtful citywide growth strategy that will help us move closer to Council’s priorities and our city’s goals,” said Calgary’s Planning and Development GM Stuart Dalgleish at the start of the meeting.

After admin’s presentation, councillors drilled city officials with questions. Then it was on to the public submissions. Then, back to more questions from councillors late Monday night.

Most developers stuck to the notion that increasing supply would keep Calgary home prices affordable. Many also said that the city wouldn’t have to add capital costs to open these greenfield areas and the business cases would result in net positive tax cash flow.

Brian Hahn, CEO of BILD Calgary, a group that represents nearly 600 member organizations tied to the development industry, said that there are thousands of jobs and overall economic impact with the development of these lands.

Hahn also reiterated the affordability aspect.

“Our key message is one that many others share,” he said.

“Supply, particularly competitively priced supply, is the key to maintaining affordability.”

Affordability not just the door price, said Sustainable Calgary

Dr. Noel Keough with Sustainable Calgary spoke against the approval of any of these proposals.  Keough said that the sticker price of a home isn’t the best measure of overall affordability. Most of the communities require families to own one, two or even three cars, he said.

“A relatively low sticker price on the home is a fiction,” he said, noting that it costs thousands annually to operate each vehicle.

It’s a car-centric living and one that doesn’t meet the City’s climate goals. Calgary has declared a climate emergency and an upcoming climate strategy has the goal of being net-zero by 2050.

“I literally have lost sleep since I read this document. I swing between anger and despair,” Keough said.

“This plan is economically flawed, ecologically catastrophic, and morally indefensible in a climate constrained world. There is a better way forward.”

Many councillors asked about the push for climate-friendly communities.

Jay Westman of Jayman Homes said they have net-zero as an option for all their new homes. It’s a hefty price tag. Westman said it would cost a home buyer roughly $75,000 for a typical home to be built net zero.

Westman said, however, that they do have climate resiliency in mind when they develop complete communities.

Further, Trico explained how their plan allows for the resupply of water to an area wetland depleted by prior development in the area.  Another development in the Belvedere area is built in a bus rapid transit corridor along 17 Avenue SE to Chestermere.

Councillors will resume questions Thursday at 1 p.m. At that time it’s expected they will debate the admin recommendations.

It will still have to go to a full meeting of council.