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City committee approves the creation of another Calgary housing committee

While members of a Calgary committee expressed concern over adding another layer of bureaucracy, they approved the creation of a new committee on housing.

The Community Development Committee met Oct. 31, and on the agenda was an item to create a new Council Advisory Committee on Housing. The goal of that committee would be to provide advice and recommendations on approved Council initiatives to address housing, offer independent monitoring and feedback on progress towards housing affordability and act as support for advocacy and collaboration with city admin, other orders of government, council, the housing sector and Calgarians.

The plan is to create a committee of 15 members that includes Calgary’s housing (market and non-market) industry, rental operators, homeless-serving agencies, Indigenous communities, Calgarians with lived experience and other equity-seeking groups, plus seniors and students.

It was created as a result of a 2022 notice of motion that asked city admin to explore the idea of creating a “Housing Security Commission.”

Previously, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott told LiveWire Calgary this was an opportunity to have the right people watching over the execution of the city’s housing strategy.

“It’s about collaboration. Housing doesn’t work unless we’re actually working together,” he said.

“So, this is a part of ensuring that people will be a part of the process.”

In an interview the week prior on a housing public policy report he co-authored, UCalgary professor Ron Kneebone said the City of Calgary didn’t need another committee for housing.

“Studying it is great, but we actually know what the answers are, and what we need to start doing is responding to it and acting on it,” he said.

Another layer of bureaucracy

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner wasn’t sure this kind of a commission was adding anything new to the conversation. She was concerned they were already asking for a new committee of people to review strategies and policies under the Calgary Housing Strategy that came from a city-formed task force and approved by Calgary city council just weeks ago.  

Penner asked after all of that process, what institutional knowledge were they lacking; furthermore, what were they hoping to hear from citizens.

“I think if citizens want to talk to us about the housing strategy, and how it’s working, any one of those individual groups can reach out to our offices at any given moment,” she said.

In a typically unlikely alliance, Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean agreed with Penner, saying that they don’t need any additional committees.

“I just can’t support this even though the intent is fantastic,” McLean said.

“It just seems to me like again, another committee and just more red tape.”

The estimated annual cost to administer and support a Council-created committee is $100,000, with annual costs around $10,000.

Penner attempted to change it to a working group so that extra administration labour of creating a legislated committee wasn’t needed. That attempt failed.

In the end, the item was approved 6-1, with only Coun. Dan McLean opposed. The item still must get final approval at a full meeting of Calgary city council.