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Airdrie gets $24.8M to build hundreds of homes

The City of Airdrie has inked a deal with the federal government for $24.8 million to build more housing. 

Ottawa says the money will be used to fast-track the development of more than 900 homes in the growing city north of Calgary over the next three years. 

“Home ownership is becoming increasingly out of reach for a significant portion of our population,” said Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown at an event on Tuesday. 

“The $24.8 million dollars is the single largest grant our community has ever received from any level of government.” 

Money to help the fast-growing community is coming out of the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund, a $4-billion initiative to incentivize development-friendly policy change. 

Funds to come in instalments with stipulations

The agreement announced Tuesday stipulates funding for Airdrie is contingent on changes that encourage development.  

Airdrie has committed to seven initiatives, including encouraging more secondary suites by reducing parking restrictions and streamlining development approval processes, according to a news release. 

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the city of more than 80,000 residents has also agreed to reduce development charges for downtown revitalization and to make some public lands available.

“To the extent cities across Canada choose not to implement the initiatives outlined in their agreement, then of course they shouldn’t expect to receive the funding,” he said. 

Fraser said the investment will come in upfront and annual 25 per cent instalments, so long as the city holds up its end of the bargain. 
 
“My expectation is that Airdrie will make good on its commitments, and they should know that the federal government will make good on its,” he said. 

Airdrie mayor Peter Brown said the $24.8 million is the largest grant his community has ever received from any level of government.
Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown said the $24.8 million is the largest grant his community has ever received from any level of government. (Mike Symington/CBC)

City sees strong need for more housing

Airdrie’s 2024 Housing Needs Assessment said one in five households struggle with housing affordability. 

The report also indicated that 1,985 households are living in core housing need, meaning they are at risk of homelessness.

The affordability challenges come after rapid population growth.

The city grew from around 61,842 residents in 2016 to more than 80,649 residents in 2023, according to municipal census data. 

At the event, Mayor Brown voiced support for the provincial government’s “Alberta is Calling” campaign, which he credits for driving recent growth, but said it has put pressure on infrastructure.

“Whether you’re working in the service industry or you’re working at an architectural firm, you need a home. That’s what we’re hoping to provide,” he said. 

Province not part of the deal

The Alberta government was not involved in the agreement. 

When asked last year about the accelerator fund, Premier Danielle Smith said the federal government’s approach to housing lacks “fairness” and “equity.”

When asked about cutting deals directly with municipalities, Fraser said provincial governments have the authority to legislate some of the changes Ottawa is promoting through these agreements, but the feds are stepping up “in the absence of that kind of activity.”

He said the federal government has other opportunities to partner with provincial governments.

“We don’t want to see a problem and not address it.” 

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