Building a home base: Why affordable housing matters to Calgary in this election

YYC Matters: Intergovernmental partnerships can address the shortage of affordable housing

At its core, affordable housing is about people. Access to safe and stable housing helps create vibrant and inclusive communities and makes our city a great place to live and work for citizens of all income levels.

Research has shown, however, that nearly one in five Calgarian households struggles with housing costs. Over 44,000 households are at risk of becoming homeless.

For example, the income needed to afford average rent for a private apartment in Calgary is $45,000 per year – Calgary’s market rental rates are among the highest in Canada – and the supply of rental housing is limited. That can make finding shelter difficult for an early childhood educator, with an average income of $29,000, or a postal worker ($30,000), a chef ($45,000) or nurse aide ($34,500).

Calgarians recognize this as an issue that needs addressing: in the most recent citizen satisfaction survey, 94% of Calgarians rated affordable housing for low-income families as either important or very important. 61% believed more investment should be made in affordable housing.

All Calgarians need affordable homes as a home base: a place where they can find and keep jobs, learn and build skills, and become active in their communities. And there’s a financial incentive to making sure people have a place to live. Providing housing for one homeless person has been shown to save taxpayers $34,000 annually in emergency services, hospitals, or social services. Not to mention the fact that every billion dollars invested in housing grows Canada’s economy by $1.4 billion and generates up to 13,000 jobs.

There is a clear need for more affordable housing in Calgary. Only 3.6 per cent of all rental units in Calgary are non-market housing: that’s only half of the average in Canada’s other large urban centres. To get to the national average, Calgary needs to build more than 15,000 new non-market homes, while also maintaining the affordable housing supply that we have.

Fortunately, Calgary’s housing sector is ready to build.

  • Since the 2016 adoption of Calgary’s affordable housing strategy, Foundations for Home, The City has supported over 2,000 new and planned affordable homes through prioritized development approvals, transfers of City-owned land at below-market value and incentives for non-profit housing providers.
  • In 2018, The City adopted in principle a 10-year affordable housing development pipeline. This will position The City to leverage provincial and federal capital dollars for new development. If fully funded by all levels of government, the program will deliver approximately 1,000 new affordable homes.
  • There are another 5,500 units in the community pipeline planned for the next 10 years, awaiting approval and funding.

The City of Calgary can’t address the need for affordable housing alone. We have strengthened intergovernmental partnerships to maintain and develop new housing in recent years. But much more help is needed – both to build the new homes Calgarians so desperately need, and to maintain the units already built so that they serve Calgarians over the long term.

What can the Provincial government do?

  • Preserve and protect Calgary’s existing affordable housing stock by adequately funding lifecycle maintenance repairs and regeneration of properties at the end of their useful lives
  • Increase the amount of capital funding for new affordable home development in Calgary
  • Work with The City to develop a modern, citizen-centric, and financially sustainable affordable housing system
  • Streamline and improve the process for Calgarians to access affordable housing by funding the One Window initiative

You can learn more about what The City of Calgary is doing to increase affordable housing supply and improve the housing system at

For more information on the YYC Matters initiative, visit