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Mayor Gondek pitches amendments to the upcoming Calgary housing strategy

Calgary post-secondary students are applauding an amendment to the upcoming Calgary housing strategy being proposed by Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek in advance of this week’s committee debate.

They said, however, that a full suite of solutions is needed beyond student housing.

The mayor initially posted three proposed amendments to Twitter late Tuesday afternoon, with a primary focus being on creating space for Calgary post-secondary students. Those amendments will be presented at some point during discussion and debate on Calgary’s housing strategy.

The housing strategy is set to come before the Community Development Committee on Thursday, and then more than 125 people will have their say on what’s in the document. That’s expected to spill into Friday, at which point city councillors will ask questions, then debate and amend the proposal.

The mayor’s proposal is as follows:

Mayor Gondek said Wednesday at an affordable housing opening that for the last few years they’ve been hearing calls from students lacking a place to live during the school year.

“I think it’s absolutely critical to make sure that in a city where we prioritize education, that we’re also providing people places to live,” she said.

She said the amendment leverages the downtown incentive program that the city created as a means to bridge a funding gap left by provincial and federal governments.

“I think it’s important to focus on young people in their future as well as people that have gone back later in their life to get an education and are struggling with housing right now.”

Housing for students and beyond

The University of Calgary’s Students’ Union said they were eagerly anticipating a vote on the overall housing strategy so that beyond their time as students, citizens can find affordable places to call home.

Recent media reports showed instances of some students being unable to find housing and living in cars or other unsafe locations. UCalgary has said that hundreds of students were on a waitlist for on-campus housing.

“Obviously we are extremely supportive of what the mayor has proposed about student housing,” read a statement from Mateusz Salmassi, VP External for the SUUC.  

“We are seeing a severe lack of safe and affordable housing for students and seeing this kind of decisive planning is exactly what we have been advocating for.” 

The mayor’s amendments also look at dedicating one site to develop an emergency housing program for families with children who are at risk.  She’d also like to advocate to the federal government for a relaxation on GST for purpose-built affordable rental units, or allow a program that allows investors to deduct development costs and rental losses from their taxable income.