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‘Game changer’: Fed dollars in limbo if Calgary housing strategy fails, says MP

The approval of Calgary’s upcoming corporate housing strategy could influence the flow of federal grant dollars, according to a Calgary MP.

Calgary’s corporate housing strategy, which will integrate recommendations from the recent Housing and Affordability Task Force, comes to the Community Development Committee on Sept. 14.  Thereafter is a special emergency meeting of council on Sept. 16 to talk about how the city could implement any approved plans.

Calgary-Skyview Liberal MP George Chahal said that he’s both excited and inspired by the work Calgary has undertaken to put together a comprehensive housing plan.

“I believe that’s a game changer,” Chahal told media at a City of Calgary downtown flood barrier event on Thursday.

“I believe that will bring our city as a leader in Canada and building housing. Having the right public policy framework in place to incentivize developers to build more housing but also allow the non-profit housing providers the abilities to build more housing.”

Chahal said it directly aligns with the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative and housing accelerator programs. The latter program helps fund innovation in housing, while the former looks at affordable housing projects. Calgary has already seen millions in support from that program for a variety of housing initiatives.

Implementing the recommendations in the plan would send an important signal to other municipalities across Canada, Chahal said. Seeing politicians that want to block measures that could mean more homes is disappointing, he said.

“It’s a hypocrisy to see on one hand they want more housing built, but they don’t want to bring forward a policy framework and empower municipalities to build more housing,” Chahal said.

On Thursday, federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre also doubled down on his idea to tie federal infrastructure dollars to the number of homes built in Canadian cities.

Federal funding at risk?

When asked if approval of Calgary’s corporate housing strategy could influence federal rapid housing dollars, Chahal’s response was succinct.

“Definitely,” he said.

While the money wouldn’t be cut off, seeing innovation in helping build more homes is what the program is all about.

“This will align with what we’re trying to do as a federal government to bring more infrastructure dollars to Calgary in line by building more housing,” he said.

Chahal noted the opportunities that exist along the Blue Line LRT and the upcoming Green Line LRT that are perfect for ongoing densification.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that they’ve always assumed that there’s an expectation that federal dollars would flow more freely to those cities doing the work to create more housing for citizens.

“We knew that when funding became available to municipalities, that it wasn’t without an expectation that we would do our own work in making things more affordable for people,” she told LWC.

“That’s not a surprise to me.”

Mayor Gondek said the city’s been watching closely what the federal government is doing with housing policy.  Further, Tim Ward, the City of Calgary’s manager of Housing Solutions, said earlier in the week that they’ve already submitted an action plan to the federal government to tap into housing accelerator funding.

“I expect our partners who are giving us money to say to us, ‘what are you doing in return?’” Mayor Gondek said.

The City’s proposed corporate housing strategy is available on their website. The item will have a public committee meeting on Sept. 14 where dozens of speakers are expected to state their case for or against certain items. From there, it would still need final approval at Calgary city council.

As mentioned, there will be a separate emergency meeting on housing Sept. 16.