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Calgary housing needs assessment shows a growing number can’t afford homes

Rodney Antoniuk has lived in Calgary since 1976 and he’s never experienced the kind of housing situation that’s happening right now.

Antoniuk, a Calgary senior, said he’s had difficulty finding anything affordable. He’s recently had a couple of surgeries and was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary, but the rent was being raised 30 per cent this year.

“I needed to find some other accommodations, but I was having difficulty with mobility issues,” he said.

“I had to start prepping, which was very difficult, but my two daughters were employed and doing a lot of work. It was almost like a second job for them to help.”

Antoniuk listened in as the City of Calgary delivered its latest housing needs assessment. The last one was done in 2018. The new numbers showed that at least one in five Calgary households couldn’t afford their housing in 2021.

According to Tim Ward, manager of Housing Solutions with the City of Calgary said this report shows how much work is needed to improve housing affordability in the city. He said these numbers are based on 2020 data and the problem is likely worse in 2023.

“What the assessment tells us this time around is that the housing crisis is affecting a wide range of Calgarians including those looking to buy or rent a home and those that are in the greatest need of affordable housing supports,” Ward said.

The report showed that the median cost of a detached home in Calgary has risen 37 per cent in the last three years and an annual household income of $156,000 is needed to afford it. To purchase an apartment, an annual income of $70,800 is needed.

The City of Calgary report expects that the number of households in need of affordable housing will near 100,000 by 2026.

Different solutions and ideas to help solve the crisis

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said all 15 on Calgary city council know there’s a housing crisis. She said how each of them sees a path to solving the situation is different.

Sharp’s Notice of Motion to have a pilot project that would incentivize developers to use the City’s already existing concurrent application process for land-use redesignation and development permit, failed to pass Executive Committee on Wednesday.

With the corporate housing strategy coming to the Community Development Committee on Sept. 14, and with that, recommendations from the Housing and Affordability Task Force, Sharp said there will be a robust discussion.

“I think that we’re going to see a lot of other conversations, not just about the blanket rezoning on the 14th. Also, about parking minimums, rent control; but this was an opportunity to home in on one of the specifics,” she said.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that within the corporate housing strategy and the task force recommendations, there are 80 different ideas to tackle affordability. She said it’s intensive.

“It’s probably the best program that’s been presented to any municipality that I can see,” she said.

“If we get moving on this now, we will actually help the 200-plus families that are on a list right now to receive housing. That’s the type of crisis that we’re in and we need to get moving right away.”

‘Best professional advice’: Ward

Ward said the proposed corporate housing strategy is now publicly available online. He said that every action being proposed shows an implementation pathway.  That’s something many councillors were concerned with in the Housing and Affordability Task Force recommendations back in June.  They said that plan had ideas but lacked a clear roadmap to action.

Ward also said there’s flexibility in what’s approved. The Community Development Committee will hear from the public, stakeholders and councillors and amendments could be proposed.

“We have broken it down by kind of what can be completed now and what can we completed next, in terms of a two-year timeframe, but it represents a package of our best professional advice,” he said.

“It represents a comprehensive plan to get ahead of the crisis that we’re in.”

Ward did note that while city council can determine which actions to proceed with and which ones they don’t, administration will recommend that the full strategy be approved.

Antoniuk said something has to be done. Especially to ensure seniors have a place to stay in the mix. He noted there’s going to be a lot more of them in the years ahead.

When he was looking for places to live, he said there just weren’t very many available to look at.

“There’s less and less and everybody seems to be around the core,” he said of his options.

If something’s not done, Antoniuk said a lot of people will be in trouble.

“I think that’s probably an issue that’s going to cause a lot of people a lot of grief,” he said.

“I can’t say they’re going to rebel, but it’s something that our government leaders are going to have to try and solve.”