What's next for housing affordability?

On Saturday, September 16th, Council approved Home is Here: The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy 2023 - 2030. The Strategy includes the recommendations from the Housing and Affordability Task Force, as well as several amendments.

Paraphrasing several speakers, “a society grows great when the old plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” This applies to our Housing Strategy. While I wish these changes had been made years ago, sparing many from the current crisis, I am hopeful that future generations of Calgarians will benefit immensely from these decisions. 

Thank you to the 162 Calgarians and organizations who came to speak to the Community Development Committee, and thanks to the many Calgarians who provided written submissions and feedback over the course of those three long days of public input. Many of the speakers related the profound and troubling effects of the housing crisis on Calgarians. I remain committed to making our city an inclusive place where people from any age, wage or stage of life can call home. 

What’s the Strategy all about? 

The Housing Strategy includes five outcomes: 

  1. Increase housing supply 
  1. Support affordable housing providers 
  1. Support The City’s housing subsidiaries 
  1. Ensure housing choices meet the needs of equity-deserving populations 
  1. Meet the affordable housing needs of Indigenous people living in Calgary 

The Strategy will make it easier to build more non-market and market homes, support the non-market housing sector, and focus several efforts in providing resources for those who need it the most. 

The creation of additional non-market and market housing supply will work to curb the escalating housing costs we have seen recently, and prevent more people from being priced out of the housing market. Additional supply should also provide relief to the rental market, which is contributing to very low vacancy rates and rising rents. 

Increasing awareness of tenants’ rights and advocating for better tenant conditions is an important part of the Strategy. 

Related to the Strategy is the most recent Housing Needs Assessment, which tells us that: 

  • Nearly 1 in 5 Calgary households cannot afford their housing, given 2021 data.  
  • The median cost to buy a detached home has increased in price by 37% in the last three years. 
  • An annual household income of $156,000 is required to adequately afford a detached home in 2023. 
  • An annual household income of $70,800 is needed to afford the median purchase cost of an apartment in 2023.  
  • An annual income of $84,000 is needed to adequately afford average market rent in 2023. This number increased from $67,000 in 2022. 

What are the next steps? 

City Administration will begin implementing actions that do not require further budget or Council approval in the short-term. 

Actions requiring land use or bylaw changes must follow the regular legislative process, including drafting bylaws, notifying property owners, and public hearing before Council deliberation. City Administration was given direction to prepare all these requirements by Quarter 2 of 2024. Actions that require budget allocations will come before Council for consideration during the 2023 November Adjustments to the 2023-2026 Service Plans and Budgets 

Actions that have budgets that have not yet been determined will be presented in future years’ budgets. 

What is the proposed rezoning? 

One action within the Housing Strategy directs City Administration to prepare the necessary bylaws to:  

  • Make the base residential zoning across the city the Residential – Grade-Oriented Infill (R-CG) District, which allows for a range of home types, including single, semi-detached, duplex, triplex, row and town homes. 
  • Make it possible to build secondary suites and backyard suites with a primary unit. 

The Development Permit and Building Permit would still be required for any redevelopment. These two permits ensure that the new buildings meet the R-CG District rules for height, lot coverage, setbacks, and landscaping and that the homes are sound from a health and safety perspective. 

City Administration and my office will be communicating with the public about this process in the coming weeks. 

Learn more about R-CG and residential zoning at Rezoning for housing (calgary.ca) and its FAQ. 

When is my rent going to stop going up? 

Landlord-tenant agreements are regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act, and any changes (such as the implementation of rent controls) would have to occur at the provincial level through the Legislative Assembly of Alberta 

The current Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services is Jason Nixon. Housing is within his portfolio.  

While the City will be taking on an education and advocacy role to better protect tenants from economic displacement, enacting these changes will require a collective effort. 

If you are interested in rent control policy or advocacy, these resources may be of interest: 

Alberta ACORN - ACORN Canada 

The Tenant Class – Between the Lines (btlbooks.com) 

Our Homes, Our Future: How Rent Control Can Build Stable, Healthy Communities | PolicyLink (full PDF here) 

Tom Slater - Rent control, strategic ignorance, and housing justice - YouTube 

The case for rent controls | The Saturday Paper 

Rent control won’t fix the housing crisis. It’s still a good idea. - Vox 

Considerations on Rent Control – J. W. Mason (jwmason.org) 

An overview of rent stabilization from national housing experts | Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (minneapolisfed.org) 

Economists Support Nationwide Rent Control in Letter to Biden Admin (vice.com) 

Tenant Power Returns — Shelterforce 

The Rhetoric of Reaction - Wikipedia 

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