Calgarians continued to flock to city hall Friday to share their thoughts on the city’s proposed strategy to address housing affordability, but one recommendation in the plan got more attention than others.
It’s the second straight day of public comment at an expanded City Committee meeting focused entirely on “Home Is Here,” the city’s proposed housing strategy.
As the cost of renting or owning a home increases exponentially in Calgary, the city’s strategy aims to increase housing supply, support affordable housing, help the city’s housing affiliates city, to ensure diverse types of housing to meet the needs of populations deserving of equity, and meet the affordable housing needs of Calgary’s Indigenous population.
To achieve the goal of improving housing affordability, the city’s strategy includes nearly 80 recommendations from the city administration and the city’s Housing Affordability Task Force.
Among those recommendations is a proposal to change the basic residential zoning district to include more housing types.
Currently, more than 60 per cent of residential properties in Calgary are zoned to only allow single-family homes by default.
The recommendation calls for changing the default zoning type to RC-G, which allows single-family homes, but also different housing units such as duplexes, triplexes and townhouses.
“It is absolutely imperative that we have a good mix of housing so that everyone can live with dignity in every community in this city,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.
Co-founder of developer RndSqr, Alkarim Devani, highlighted the recommendation during his speech to the board in support of the strategy.
Devani said the current process of applying to rezone a property is “arduous” and can lead to costly and time-consuming delays in residential developments that are pa*sed on to the future owner or tenant.
“We have a constraint on supply that is primarily due to zoning,” Devani said. “If we can make supply more accessible, we can make the process more reliable, more predictable and faster. You know that supply will reduce or stabilize demand because there will be more options.”
Although much of the feedback gathered during the two-day public hearing was overwhelmingly supportive of the strategy, several speakers on Friday expressed opposition to the zoning reform recommendation.
“This will not accomplish the goal of creating more affordable housing options,” Jean Woeller, a Bowness resident, told the committee. “This will create losers who will own homes in established neighborhoods. »
Others, like Bob Morrison, said the strategy would only succeed if it was revised to address concerns about zoning reform.
“Housing growth needs to happen where people, especially those who need it most, can easily access services and amenities,” Morrison said. “Blanket rezoning and $650,000 townhouse incentives in low-density areas will not achieve this. »
Others raised concerns about land values, aging urban infrastructure in established areas, and the city’s tree cover.
Ward 10 County. Andre Chabot said he would like to see a “softer transition” in the existing local planning process before citywide zoning reform.
“Trying to do it in one fell swoop with a big hammer, I don’t think that’s the right approach,” he told reporters. “We need to use a soft hammer and move forward thoughtfully and methodically. »
Other speakers, like Candace Chambers, acknowledged landlords’ concerns about the zoning recommendations, but said it can’t derail the strategy because Calgary’s housing situation is untenable for many people grappling with affordability issues.
“I need people to really think about what you might reject and what you might let young people into,” she said. “I remember the promises of older generations that would make things better for younger people. Right now, I have the impression that you are having fun torturing us.
Ward 8 County. Courtney Walcott said the status quo isn’t working and the recommendation is to go beyond and look at “the entire housing continuum.”
“Half measures have proven to be ineffective and the incremental approach has proven to be the reason why we have seen such drastic increases in house prices,” Walcott said.
The zoning recommendation would not take effect immediately if approved in the housing strategy, as it would require another council decision and public hearing to amend the current zoning bylaw.
The committee will begin debating the housing strategy on Saturday morning, including any potential amendments from city councilors.
“Is this a miracle solution? No,” Ward 11 Council Kourtney Penner said. “None of the measures contained in the package constitute a miracle solution. Do they work together? Absolutely.”
If the strategy is approved by the committee, it will go to a special meeting of the full city council on Saturday afternoon for a final debate and decision.
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