The proportion of Calgarians needing help finding affordable housing is about the same as it was 20 years ago, according to a report being presented to a city committee Tuesday.
That’s in spite of the fact that Calgary is roughly half-way through its 10-year plan to end homelessness, said Coun. Brian Pincott, who chairs the Calgary Housing Company and sits on the board of Attainable Homes Calgary.
"We're not getting there fast enough and the systems that we have are not working well. We are in crisis," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The report to the city's priorities and finance committee says about 18 per cent of Calgarians are in need of affordable housing.
“The bad news is the percentage is the same. The good news is that we’re adding close to 30,000 people a year to Calgary, so we are creating more affordable housing,” Pincott said. “We’re keeping up, we’re not getting in front of it — we need to get in front of it.”
In order to do that, the key players must look at the entire housing spectrum — analyzing how factors work together — rather than continuing to approach inter-related problems in isolated silos, Pincott said.
“It’s all part of a piece and we’ve never really tackled the whole thing before,” he said. “This report, for lack of a better term, is a bit of a gap analysis.”
Pincott said the mindset is starting to change, as government officials, the not-for-profit sector and the for-profit industry realizing the need to work together. The overall effort should be led by the city, the report suggests.
Officials need to take a closer look at such things as secondary suites, inclusionary zoning and even requiring developers to set aside five per cent of a given project as affordable housing, Pincott said.
Affordable housing isn’t just an issue affecting "poor" people, Pincott said, pointing out that the average price for a single-family house in the city is $473,000.
“The average family income that you need to get a mortgage for that is $93,000.”
One major hurdle is the ongoing shortage of rental properties, Pincott said.
“We’re losing rental stock. We lost 600 apartments in 2012. That’s before everything that we lost in the flood. That would primarily be condo conversions,” he said.
“Why aren’t we building new rental in Calgary? Obviously the economics aren’t there but what are the little things we can do to tip the economics in favour of getting more built.”
The city is confronted with the added challenge of dwindling money from Ottawa for affordable housing, Pincott said.
“That pot of money from the federal government is going away,” he said, referring to a $1.7-billion per year envelope that Ottawa had earmarked for affordable housing that’s starting to expire.
“And that money is sliding off the table at a time when we need it.”
A report on the next steps will come back to city council later this year.