Red Deer city council has unanimously supported 10 recommendations related to municipal governments enabling actions that reflect the Community Housing and Homelessness Integrated Plan.
During Monday’s council meeting, administration presented an action plan for pursuing the 10 “enablers” within the next three years, including some that will be actioned immediately.
These enabling actions were researched and analyzed to provide solutions for the city in relation to their impact in leveraging funds from other orders of government, as well as the difficulty and timeframe for implementation.
The recommendations are in response to a council motion from January 2022 directing the city’s Housing and Homelessness Integration Committee to expediate permanent supportive housing asset development and to explore and identify related funding and government-enabling actions.
Supported by case studies that demonstrate successful strategies used by other municipalities to incentivize and increase affordable and supportive housing stock, the approved recommendations provide the following direction:
- Surplus land: Administration will present a report to council in late 2024 that contains a list of potentially suitable surplus lands or buildings that the city may consider using for affordable housing.
- Financial incentives: A tax supported financial incentives program will be presented in November 2023 for council consideration during mid-cycle budget review. Additionally, administration will explore the city’s application for the new “Housing Accelerator Fund” through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
- Property tax exemptions: A grant program in lieu of property tax exemptions will be presented in November 2024 as part of the next budget debate.
- Land designations: A full business case regarding land designation outlining financial feasibility and risks to the city’s Land Bank will be presented to council in late 2024.
- Fast track development: Administration will prioritize zoning and permitting processes for affordable housing and permanent supportive housing applications.
- Waive municipal fees: Administration will ensure municipal fees are eligible expenses in the tax-supported financial incentives program that will be presented to council in November 2023 as part of mid-cycle budget review.
During Monday’s meeting, Mayor Ken Johnston noted Red Deer council will discuss a permanent shelter location at a special meeting next week.
“We will not come up with a sustainable shelter solution anywhere … unless we’re prepared to (invest) in the housing space,” said Johnston.
“A shortage of housing is a major negative to economic development. Cities that are growing are addressing the needs of affordable housing.”
Johnston also took aim at the federal government for “ignoring the mid-sized cities in this country,” like Red Deer. His office is working on setting up a meeting with Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussan, he added.
“I want to be able to ask the minister… ‘When are we getting our fair share of housing investment in our city?’”
At Monday’s meeting, council also endorsed the following administrative actions:
- Provision of continued support to potential applicants to federal, provincial and municipal affordable housing programs;
- Development of key messages supporting the city’s advocacy for increased affordable housing stock;
- Development of new Land Use Bylaw for council consideration in 2023;
- Exploration of conversion of commercial buildings for timeliness and affordability reasons.