Fifty affordable housing units in Calgary are sitting vacant because the city doesn't have enough money to maintain them.

The city has many units that are over 30 years old, according to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and the 50 aging units have been shut down.

While the federal and provincial governments have made new commitments for affordable housing, he says that money has been slow reaching the city.

"The province and the federal government really have not allowed us to do that kind of investment that we need," he said.

"We have very live cases right now where if we can get the funding, we will be able to keep these units going for many years and if we can't, we'll be in a situation where it's just not ethical to allow people to live there anymore."

Rehabilitation more cost-effective

The city opened a new 16-unit affordable housing project in Crescent Heights in May — its first such project in five years. Nenshi says there is a real need for affordable housing in Calgary and the city would rather maintain its aging housing supply than build new ones.

Nenshi says it is much more cost-effective for the city to rehabilitate existing units that are at risk of closing, than to build new ones.

"I was just down in the community of Bankview last week where we saw exactly that — where we were able to rehabilitate an old, really at the end of its lifecycle building, add 30 or 40 years to its life for a cost about one-third or less of what it would cost to build brand new," he said.

Last month, Coun. Brian Pincott asked the city to cancel the Calgary Housing Company's $2.1-million property tax bill, saying corporation's revenues have decreased as rent is tied to residents' incomes, which have been on the decline.

With file from Scott Dippel