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Red Deer city council takes steps to encourage creation of more affordable housing

Red Deer needs 2,300 more affordable rentals units, according to a 2019 survey
Red Deer city council supported prioritizing zoning and permitting applications for affordable housing projects. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer city council laid groundwork for more municipality involvement in getting additional affordable housing and permanent supportive housing created in the city.

On Monday, city council unanimously approved a recommendation from administration to prioritize zoning and permitting processes to allow for affordable housing and permanent supportive housing options.

Direction to prioritize applications for permanent supportive and affordable housing ahead of other applications would help meet timelines for the CMHC and Government of Alberta funding programs, councillors heard.

And this could assist applicants who are seeking funding from either Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Rapid Housing Initiative or Government of Alberta’s Affordable Housing Partnership.

The recommendation stems from a request from Council in 2022 for the Housing and Homelessness Integration Committee (HHIC) to expedite permanent supportive housing development and to explore funding options and recommendations for local government assistance.

While affordably housing is technically a federal or provincial jurisdiction, Ryan Veldcamp, safe and healthy communities supervisor, told council that so far, no mid-sized Alberta cities have yet received federal money towards this. Grants usually go to larger centres.

However, the government has new eligibility criteria that gives points to groups, including municipalities, that invest certain amounts of money into affordable housing projects. And Veldcamp told council that other cities, including Lethbridge and Grande Prairie, are already putting money into affordable housing projects.

Red Deer city council will also consider this, but Veldcamp recommended council first approve the prioritizing of zoning and permitting processes. Next month, the city’s Housing and Asset Development Subcommittee is expected to bring forward a report that will make recommendations on sustainable ways that the city could make capital investments into a local program to support affordable/supportive and transitional housing.

While Red Deer has fairly high rental vacancies, the city is extremely short of affordable housing, and especially transitional housing units. Veldcamp told council that a 2019 report showed about 1,300 “deep subsidy” rental units are needed, and an additional 1,000 rental units that are at minimum 10 per cent below market rents.

At this time, only Amethyst House, run by the Canadian Mental Health Association, offers 62 transitional supportive housing units in Red Deer, while 139 of these spaces were found to be needed in the 2019 survey.

City councillors heard on Monday that more residents are now having to spend 50 per cent or more of their income on housing, and this is contributing to a growing local homeless population.

Veldkamp added applicants who are seeking funding from either Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation or Government of Alberta for affordable and supportive housing development are encouraged to reach out to The City for support. In addition to prioritizing applications, city administration will provide dedicated staff for application support, a team to review applications, as well as provide letters of support outlining community need.

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