City council endorses national housing strategy

Red Deer has joined other Canadian municipalities in the call for a national housing strategy.

Red Deer has joined other Canadian municipalities in the call for a national housing strategy.

Council endorsed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ housing campaign, Fixing Canada’s Housing Crunch on Tuesday.

The campaign calls on the federal government to increase housing options for Canadians. More than 140 municipalities have already passed council resolutions in support of the campaign.

Coun. Paul Harris said there needs to be a policy that looks at housing strategies that ensures people can afford their houses, move into ownership and find appropriate rentals across the country. He said the high cost of housing is one of the most urgent financial issues facing Canadians and Red Deerians.

Harris said the economic boom has created the housing crisis in Red Deer. He said people move to Red Deer from all over the country. A few years ago, Harris said the vacancy rate was well below zero.

“There were tent villages springing up around the city,” said Harris, who introduced the motion with Coun. Dianne Wyntjes. “That’s not a position we want to be in.”

Wyntjes said $1.7 billion in social housing agreements that the federal government provides annually for affordable housing units across Canada will expire and will not be renewed. The resolution calls for a housing plan that puts core investments on solid ground, increases predictability, protects Canadians from the social housing agreement expiration and ensures a healthy stock of affordable rental housing.

“While the federal budget recognized a need for a national housing strategy, it fell short in my view,” said Wyntjes. “There were no targets, timelines or commitments for a long-term housing plan … Again it’s up to (municipalities) to encourage the federal government to see this as a key priority.”

A copy of the resolution will be sent to both the federal and provincial governments.

In other council news:

lCouncillors Lynne Mulder and Paul Harris along with City Manager Craig Curtis and Environmental Initiatives Supervisor Nancy Hackett attended the 2014 Sustainable Communities Conference and Trade Show in Charlottetown, P.E.I. last week.

Mulder and Harris will deliver a power point presentation to council about what they learned at the conference in the coming weeks.

Harris said the conversation at the conference has changed from climate change mitigation to adaptation over the last four years.

Harris said it was good to hear the city’s new policy for consumption-based utilities is on the right track and ahead of other municipalities across the country. But Harris said it is a good idea to take a serious look at some of the practices in the city.

“The key message was the speed that you are going at is not fast enough,” said Harris. “We need to pick up the pace across the county.”

Mulder said one of the key things she took away from the three-day conference was the need to link sustainability within the six themes in the city’s strategic plan.

lCouncil approved the utility bylaw that sets the 2014 rates. A total monthly utility bill for a typical household using 17,000 litres of water will pay $1.35 or 1.9 per cent more a month. The total bill will rise to $99.05 in 2014 compared to $97.070 in 2013 for wastewater, water, garbage and recycling.

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