Calgary is building new affordable housing – and we are ready to do more
Affordable housing need in Calgary
Calgary is in urgent need of more affordable housing. In addition to lagging behind other major centres by approximately 15,000 non-market housing units, the need for affordable homes grows by 2,000-2,500 households each year. Over the last five years, an average of 300 non-market affordable homes per year have been completed.
Data released this week indicate that since 2016, 2,203 new affordable homes have been completed and 2,481 are currently planned. A significant portion (1,228) of these planned homes – which would be built, owned and operated by non-profit organizations -- are currently on hold, largely due to the need for capital funding. If each of the projects in the pipeline were to go ahead, Calgary would reach 31% of the 15,000 target by 2022.
Guided by Foundations for Home: Calgary’s Corporate Affordable Housing Strategy 2016-2025 (CAHS) which was approved by Council in 2016, the City builds new units and provides supports to non-profit organizations aimed at the Number 1 priority: Get the Calgary Community Building. An update on progress can be found here.
Through the City of Calgary’s Non-Profit Land Sale (NPLS) which offers surplus City land to community non-profit housing providers, 156 units have been completed, with another 128 units in the planning approvals process. These land sales account for 23% of all units proposed by the non-profit sector since 2018. Further, the Housing Incentive Program which includes both pre-development grants and the rebate of City permits and fees for non-market developers, has contributed to the exploration or development of more than 2,200 homes.
Affordable housing is important to Calgarians. The Citizen Satisfaction survey released last week indicates 95% of Calgarians want investment in affordable housing to stay the same or increase. Meeting the affordable housing needs of Calgarians living on low incomes requires us to track our progress, monitor and adjust City programs, and continue to work closely with sector partners and government stakeholders.
Recent success with our sector, federal and provincial partners
Last summer, our Community Advocacy Plan was developed by more than 40 organizations from across the affordable housing sector and sought federal and provincial support to address key gaps in Calgary’s housing system in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This plan advocates for funding to house nearly 12,000 Calgarians in more than 5,400 affordable homes over the next three years.
In response to this Community Advocacy Plan, as well as advocacy efforts from other cities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced their Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) in October 2020. This $1 billion capital fund aimed to create 3,000 affordable homes across the country for vulnerable people in severe housing need – specifically people at risk of or experiencing homelessness or living in temporary shelters because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of The City's work with community stakeholders on the Community Advocacy Plan well in advance of the RHI announcement, Calgary was able to quickly respond and identify viable projects to be considered for the $24.6M (for 174 homes) dedicated to Calgary under the Major Cities Stream of funding. Disappointingly, no additional Calgary-based projects were funded through the Projects Stream. This included 11 projects from seven non-market housing providers, including homes for women fleeing abuse, people with addictions and Indigenous families, representing 666 affordable homes and $121M – the potential for more than 700 construction-related jobs.
While as a sector, we have begun to move the needle, there is still an affordable housing shortage in Calgary.
Without significant federal and provincial investment, Calgary will continue to fall short of meeting the affordable housing needs of low and moderate income households. Now is the time for bold action, but without substantive investment Calgary can only continue to deliver the average of 300 new homes per year.
To help track Calgary’s progress towards getting to the average, the Affordable Housing Development Monitor was developed to address the city’s affordable housing shortfall.
Our sector has the capacity to respond
On May 13, 2021, the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee re-affirmed the affordable housing advocacy goals. The non-market housing sector is poised to deliver a significant number of homes should adequate capital be made available. Late last year, we witnessed an unprecedented number of new homes proposed, but did not have the funding required from governments to bring these much-needed homes to fruition. In response to CMHC’s RHI, we saw an increase in development applications in Q4 of 2020, however many of these projects are on hold, pending the necessary funds to proceed.
“With investment from our provincial and federal counterparts, we could end homelessness,” says Mayor Nenshi. “Affordable housing generates economic activity and job creation, while providing dignity and safety to those in our community who desperately need a place to call home.”
By continuing to work closely with sector and government stakeholders to increase the supply of affordable housing, we can ensure people at all income levels can live and work in our city. We have work to do to get – and keep – Calgary building. We just need the funding to get it done.