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Calgary city council to hold special meeting to address ‘housing crisis’

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to announce that she has scheduled a special meeting of council later this month to discuss the city’s housing crisis.

“We are in a housing crisis in Calgary. I have called a special meeting of council for 1 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2023 to take swift action,” she wrote.

“Compared to 2021, average market rent is [up] 40 per cent with vacancy at three per cent. Median home prices for single detached [up] 37 per cent. The time to act is now.”

Jyoti Gondek speaks to the media after being sworn-in as the new mayor of Calgary in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
Jyoti Gondek has scheduled a special meeting of council on Sept. 16 to discuss the city’s housing crisis. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

She emphasized the importance of acting quickly in an interview with CBC News and explained why she decided to organize the meeting.

“What would have happened in the normal cadence of a committee recommendation moving to council, it would have meant that we would have been waiting till October to actually implement some of the recommendations that we’ll be considering,” Gondek said.

“There’s about 80 recommendations that are being offered in total and they are strong, they’re both market and non-market responses.”

Calgarians struggling with housing affordability

According to the Housing Needs Assessment report released by the City of Calgary this month, one in five households in Calgary struggled to afford housing costs in 2021 — which means around 84,600 households were forced to shell out more than 30 per cent of their total income on housing.

The situation is probably worse in 2023 with more and more households feeling the brunt of the housing crisis, the report added.

The assessment, which is published once every five years, focuses on affordable housing strategies and helps the city collaborate with housing providers and the government. 

“The latest data published in the Housing Needs Assessment shows us that an increasing number of Calgarians are struggling with housing affordability,” said Tim Ward, manager of housing solutions for the city, in a release.

“The findings in the assessment also highlight that the housing crisis is affecting a wide range of Calgarians including those looking to buy or rent a home and those that are in the greatest need of affordable housing supports.”

According to the report, Calgarians now need an average household income of $156,000 to buy their first detached home.

Meanwhile, purchasing an apartment in the city requires a household income of $70,800.

Calgarians hoping to rent a home need to earn $84,000 a year. That number was far lower in 2022 — $67,000, to be precise.

Single family housing in north Calgary
Calgarians now need an annual household income of $156,000 to buy their first detached home, according to the city. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

According to the estimated population growth rate and the historical rate of housing requirements, the total number of households that will require affordable housing options will be around 100,000 by 2026.

Like many others, Arthur Gallant is struggling to keep up with the rising cost of housing.

He moved to Calgary from Hamilton, Ont., in 2021, in search of affordability. 

Two years later, he says he’s paying $442 more for the same one-bedroom apartment he first moved into. 

Now, Gallant is one of 5,300 Calgary households on a waitlist for affordable housing.

“Working professionals should not have one paycheque a month going toward rent. It blows my mind that I’m making $17,000 more a year compared to what I was making in Ontario and my lifestyle is not much better,” said Gallant. 

For him, that means dining out as little as possible, putting some items back at the grocery store cashier, and deciding whether $2 for a coffee is worth it, or if it could be spent better elsewhere. 

“What does that mean for people making even a few dollars less than me, or getting a few hours less a week at work? What sacrifices are they having to make?” said Gallant.

“That’s a very scary thought. [It’s] something that keeps me awake at night, and it is something that consumes my thoughts more than I’d like to admit.”

A man is seen smiling against the backdrop of downtown Calgary and the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Arthur Gallant, who moved from Ontario to Calgary in search of affordability, is currently paying $442 more for the same one-bedroom apartment he first moved into. (Submitted by Arthur Gallant)

What is contributing to the current housing crisis, though? The Housing Needs Assessment report lists three primary reasons, namely below-average vacancy rates, a sharp rise in rental costs and higher home prices.

“To ease the strain and support Calgary’s prosperity now and for future generations, we need more homes in all shapes and sizes in all neighbourhoods. We have a plan to do that,” the report said.

The report lists five primary outcomes that it aims to achieve while tackling the housing crisis, namely:

  • More housing supply.

  • Encouraging low-cost housing providers.

  • Backing the city’s housing subsidiaries.

  • Working on equitable access to affordable housing for all groups, including “equity-deserving populations.”

  • Catering to the housing needs of Indigenous residents in the city.

The Housing Needs Assessment report will be evaluated at a community development committee meeting on Sept. 14. 

The report relies on quantitative data from City of Calgary corporate economics, the federal census, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

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