Lacombe looks to private sector for affordable housing ideas

Affordable Housing Strategy update found cheaper houses and rents in short supply

Lacombe is looking to the community for proposals to address affordable housing.

A housing strategy update that went to council on Monday said affordable housing — both homes and rental suites — is in short supply in the city.

There are not enough homes under $300,000 for first-time buyers and rents have increased significantly over the past few years. More than a third of renters spend at least 30 per cent of their income on housing, says the report.

“Cost of living is definitely an issue within the community,” Guy Lapointe, manager of community economic development, told council.

The city is putting out a request for expressions of interest early next year with an end-of-February deadline. There is $430,000 in provincial grant funding available for projects.

“We want to leverage private dollars to maximize the investment we’re making in the community,” said Lapointe.

“In all reality, $430,000 is probably not going to go very far if you invest it in a specific project. There are a lot of creative ways to work with private industry to make these things happen.”

Once proposals have been gathered, the city’s affordable housing committee will whittle those down to the two or three most promising ideas to take before city council for approval.

The housing strategy identifies a need for lower-priced homes; lower rents, possibly through subsidies; seniors housing and permanent supportive housing.

“If you can capture one or more of those things, that would be an exciting thing for us to review on our side,” said Lapointe.

Lacombe has previously taken advantage of provincial grant funding to pursue projects.

Central Alberta Youth Unlimited was given financial help to pay their down payment on an older home that was converted into living and program space.

Housing committee member Coun. Reuben Konnik said it is unlikely there is enough money to address all of the community’s affordable housing needs.

However, he supported the initiative to see what ideas the community could come up with, rather than specifying one approach.

“I think we’ll be relying on the private sector to fill in some of those gaps for us and come up with creative ways for us to address these issues,” said Konnik.

Coun. Jonathan Jacobson said the only surefire way to make housing affordable is to increase supply.

The city can play a role by changing zoning to allow smaller homes to be built, he said.

“I can tell you, having been out there, there are still a lot of people who want single-family housing, and new.”

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