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Market conditions worsen as Calgary implements its housing strategy

There is progress on implementing Calgary’s housing strategy, but it may be some time before any benefits begin to take hold, according to city officials.

City councillors on the Community Development Committee received an update on the strategy Wednesday, after its approval by council in September.

According to city administration, five of the 98 recommendations in the strategy have been completed including the recently approved city-wide rezoning initiative, and efforts to make several parcels of city-owned land available for non-profit affordable housing providers.

City officials said work on 53 recommendations are progressing, with another 12 progressing ahead of schedule.

Committee also gave an initial approval to a program aimed at incentivizing the development of secondary suites.

Approximately 80 per cent of the actions in the strategy are planned to be initiated by the end of 2024, according to a city report on the matter.

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Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott, who chairs the committee, noted progress on implementation is moving quickly but he said it’s important to be realistic about the results.

“We just have to be self-aware of the time it takes to create a problem is almost the equivalent to the amount of time it will take to solve it,” Walcott told reporters.

“It’s going to take some time to get there so we’re going to need these consistently to ensure we’re at least moving in that direction.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council approves strategy to address housing affordability'

Calgary city council approves strategy to address housing affordability

However, market conditions have worsened since the strategy’s approval last fall.

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City officials noted the rental vacancy rate has tumbled to 1.1 per cent, while the average rent for a two-bedroom unit jumped 12 per cent to over $2,650 while the median residential housing price rose 11 per cent.

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According to the city, the median price for a single detached home is now $718,400.

“It’s going to keep getting worse until we actually complete and push forward some more of these actions,” Walcott said.

The city’s report noted city administration and partners like non-profit housing providers are facing challenges due to “capacity constraints, supply chain challenges, and increasing costs.”

Those challenges were echoed by the HomeSpace Society, which is currently working to around 100 non-market housing units for families on two parcels of city-owned land at Whitehorn and Fish Creek Lacombe LRT stations.

“We have a specific mandate around affordable housing but we also have other partners who are building market housing,” HomeSpace’s CEO Bernadette Majdell told Global News.

“We’re all competing for the same resources: labour, materials… Right now, for us, we’re seeing a supply and demand issue.”

Last November, city council approved an additional $90 million in capital funding and $135 million in operating and one-time funding over three years to implement the strategy’s recommendations.

Click to play video: 'Calgary councilors want plebiscite for city-wide rezoning'

Calgary councilors want plebiscite for city-wide rezoning

That money is earmarked to fund initiatives including the secondary suites incentive program, a $20 million housing land fund, a program aimed to create a central intake process for people seeking affordable housing. the downtown development incentive program, and a program for Indigenous affordable housing.

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The city will also receive $228.5 million from the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

According to city administration, the target is to increase the housing supply 41, 858 units by Oct. 2026, which includes 6,825 HAF-incented units.

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said he believes the city’s efforts don’t do enough to increase the supply of non-market housing.

“From my perspective, the only way to address the need right now is non-market housing.  To try and address the market housing by virtue of this investment is a drop in the bucket,” Chabot told reporters Wednesday. “What we’re delivering on non-market housing through this program is nominal.  It’s just a few homes like maybe 1000 total … I don’t see the return on investment, to be honest with you.”

Committee also gave an initial approval to create a volunteer expert advisory committee on housing, which will need council’s final approval later this month.

According to the city, the committee will help advise city officials on the strategy’s implementation and provide independent monitoring of progress towards addressing housing affordability.

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