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Calgary city council changes course, charts plan to review housing recommendations

The original decision was reconsidered, allowing for alternate recommendations.

Calgary city council has reversed its decision on the housing task force recommendations, after a reconsideration vote, paving the way for further work on the housing file.

The reconsideration vote was done during a continuation of Tuesday’s regular meeting of council after the lunch hour Wednesday. The motion to reconsider was brought forward by Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans. They were reconsidering the decision to reject the recommendations from the City’s housing and affordability task force.

Pootmans was able to bring the reconsideration forward Tuesday because it was still in the same meeting, despite it being a day later.

Councillors on the original prevailing side said they were working on a notice of motion to be presented in July that would have split out some of the more contentious issues.  At issue are the city-wide land use change to R-CG (allowing rowhouses, townhouses, semi-detached, etc) and the elimination of parking minimums.

This led to a revised set of recommendations put forward to address some of the hang-ups that many councillors had, Pootmans said.

“I was very disappointed in the way a number of issues were not able to be dealt with yesterday. It was a very difficult day for all of us,” Pootmans said.

“I went home thinking that I want the changes to baseline district, for example, to have a full public hearing to have a full public consultation. We’re going to get that with the recommendations that are coming our way through the to the Community Development Committee in meeting in September.”

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean said given the original decision was just the prior evening, the public’s view of what’s happening at council would be tainted.

“There’s an old saying: democracy dies in darkness. If city council takes a vote and then the next day, boom, we come back out here and we just change our minds in public the perception is going to be maybe there’s some undue influence or coercion,” McLean said.  

“I’m not saying there was. But that’s just the perception of public.”

Revised recommendations approved

The alternate proposal would receive the housing task force recommendations and actions, disband the task force and incorporate the changes into the Corporate Affordable Housing Strategy, to be presented in September.  

It would also ask for clear identification of the items that would be added to the corporate strategy and what the implications would be. Many of those items would be identified for further action and additional deliberation through committee and council and the potential budget implications.

Tim Ward, chair of the housing task force, said that instead of beginning implementation of the recommendations immediately (with recos from prior night), they would have to wait until the items were debated at committee and council later this year.

Ward also said even with prior recommendations there would have been a year-long process, with engagement, to bring something forward to council.

Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian said she’d support the alternate proposal but was disappointed how we’re getting to this point. It’s essentially delaying the decision of moving forward.

“I still see this as a form of extra red tape that we don’t need to have because at the end of the day, we would always go to public hearing and you would have your people be able to weigh in on whether or not they would want it,” she said.

“So that decision isn’t being wasn’t going to be made yesterday and I think that is what got lost. It’s very frustrating to see it kind of go like this.”

Coun. Raj Dhaliwal, who had earlier in the day said that councillors should be embarrassed they didn’t move forward on any of the recommendations – as they’d agreed on most of them – said he was excited this was moving ahead.

“I think this is a step forward because yesterday all those recommendations and the great work was just killed; killed on the on this council floor and there was no step forward,” he said.

“So I’m very excited that you’re trying to salvage most of that hopefully, and starting the journey towards that next stage, which is more affordable housing.”

Coun. Courtney Walcott said he’s glad that the conversation is not done. He’s disappointed that this is what happened.

“Statements and commitments to solving the housing crisis are the easiest things to make. It is when we actually have the opportunities to make the decisions that we have to stand and do the right thing,” he said.

“What we’ve given ourselves here is multiple outs and I’m very concerned about how many outs we give ourselves when we are facing the crisis. Especially that we woke up this morning to find out that the crisis just got worse.”

The alternate recommendations were approved by council 14-1.