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Danielle Smith reacts to Calgary council’s vote to pass blanket rezoning

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she remains “concerned” after Calgary councillors passed blanket rezoning on Tuesday.

Councillors voted 9-6 in favour of the amended rezoning bylaw, which will allow for more density in residential areas.

The move was made in an effort to help combat Calgary’s affordable housing crisis.

The land-use amendment means the city will transition properties currently zoned as R-C1 districts – which only allow single-detached homes on them – to R-CG, which also allow for townhomes and duplexes.

Speaking at an unrelated provincial news conference on Wednesday, Smith said her initial concern with the proposed blanket rezoning was because it seemed to be tied to a bilateral deal the City of Calgary signed with the federal government.

“At first it seemed like the federal government said, ‘Yes, they need to make these changes,’ and then it sounded like the municipality said, ‘No, no, no. We’ve got the authority to do this and there’s no tie to the money.’”

She says it concerns her if municipalities feel that they have pressure from the federal government to change their policies in order to get funding.

“If it is the case that the council members felt that somehow that money would be at risk if they didn’t make the kind of changes that they that they did, and that’s very concerning, because the federal government should not dictate what municipal policy should be,” Smith said.

Smith says her concerns with the topic are the reason Bill 18 was introduced.

“We want to be able to be the advocate for all of our municipalities, so that they don’t feel like they have to be pressured into passing policies that will likely get some of them unelected in the next election,” she said.

“I don’t quite know how this is going to turn out for the various members who voted the way they did. I’ve seen the polling of some on some of those ridings, just like anyone else has, but it does seem to me that that is an election about a year-and-a-half away, so I guess we will see whether or not there’s widespread acceptance then.”

Blanket rezoning was one of 98 recommendations within The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy, approved in 2023, to try to address the housing crisis.

The City of Calgary says 736 people spoke to council for more than 100 hours during public hearings on the issue.

“I think it was a reminder to all of us that people are very, very engaged in the conversation around housing,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek in a Wednesday interview with CTV News.

“We listened to a lot of people and the decision that we made yesterday is reflective of those voices.”

City officials said nearly 70 per cent of the people who spoke were against blanket rezoning.

Gondek said they have “absolutely taken to heart” the concerns that people had.

“We included amendments that make sure that the community’s voice is heard at the time that a development permit is submitted.”

Gondek also fired back at Smith’s concerns that the decision was tied to federal funding.

“Within our contract on the Housing Accelerator Fund, it is spelled out very clearly that we will endeavour to undertake to have a hearing to change any bylaws that might result in more housing.

“There is actually something listed very clearly in that contract that says council is ‘unfettered’ – that’s their language – we are ‘unfettered’ by the terms of this contract in relation to any decision that we have to make.”

Gondek says rezoning is just one component of a larger housing strategy.

– With files from Jordan Kanygin

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