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Health agency issues order after 42 beds found in Banff home

Alberta Health Services has issued an order against the owners of a home in Banff, Alta., after more than 40 beds and mattresses were found inside. 

More affordable housing needed for workers, says Town of Banff

Alberta Health Services recently inspected 321 Squirrel Street in Banff, Alta. (Rebecca Kelly/CBC)

Alberta Health Services has issued an order against the owners of a home in Banff, Alta., after more than 40 beds and mattresses were found inside. 

AHS says an inspection at 321 Squirrel Street found conditions that "are or may become injurious or dangerous to the public health." 

It also said the home's 16-person maximum occupancy was exceeded — 42 beds and/or mattresses were found in the residence, and a tenant was sleeping in a basement room with no window.

The owners of the house have been ordered to make numerous repairs, remove the excess beds and mattresses and accommodate no more than 16 tenants.

In 2019, the same house was ordered to reduce occupancy when about 24 people were found living there, AHS said in an emailed statement to CBC News. 

When it comes to housing concerns, AHS said educating home owners about regulations is its first step. Enforcement is its last option and used only when "serious safety concerns" are present. 

If the owners of the Squirrel Street home do not address the conditions of the most recent order, AHS said next steps would be prosecution or a Court of Queen's Bench order.

'This example is on the extreme end'

Darren Enns, director of planning and development for the Town of Banff, says the town has a large proportion of young service sector workers and their household populations tend to be higher than an average Alberta household. 

"However, I would say that this example is on the extreme end, and it's not something that we see too often." 

He said they received several complaints about the house, and a multi-agency group that includes town workers, the fire department and AHS had visited the home multiple times over three years. 

Cindy Heisler has been helping people find places to live in the Bow Valley for nine years through her prominent Facebook group, Bow Valley Home Finder, which has more than 25,000 members.

She said the Squirrel Street property had been listed on the page years ago but was removed after she heard from people who had lived there. 

CBC News has previously reported that many long-time locals and new Banffites are struggling to find housing this year. (Radio-Canada)

She said people who lived at the property told her they had been yelled at by one of the listed owners for coming home too late, or told they couldn't watch TV because it was too loud.

Heisler said a lot of "ski bums" come to live in Banff for about six months, and learn to deal with whatever accommodation they can afford.

"And there's nobody to look out for them to make sure they know their rights," she said. 

"It's not the only situation in Banff. I've come across at least half a dozen others similar to this." 

'Doubling of numbers'

Following the AHS order, there are now more people looking for accommodation, Heisler said, which adds to the hundreds of people already looking. 

"I'm seeing the doubling of numbers. Every time I check my phone, there's another 15 people who want to join the group. So I'm probably approving 50 people a day instead of 25, like I was last month," she said. 

She says that in addition to affordable housing, temporary housing needs to be set up for those who are staying less than a year. 

CBC News previously reported that many long-time locals and new Banffites are struggling to find housing this year. 

In a statement provided to CBC News, the Town of Banff said more affordable housing is needed in the community, despite some affordable housing options being added in the past few years, including the Ti'nu apartment complex and the Aster condos, which are under construction. 

Many private organizations continue to redevelop sites in town for their staff housing, according to the statement. The Banff YWCA is also constructing more units at its affordable housing complex. 

"We will continue to work with the provincial agency to monitor the housing situation in Banff and to ensure landlords comply with our stringent occupancy and safety requirements," the statement read. 

The statement said the number of businesses requiring workers in the past decade has remained relatively constant. The Town of Banff has not increased in size since incorporation in 1990 and all developable land is in use. 

"As a result, it is challenging to add housing in the townsite." 

"The community is adjusting to the return of more tourism and the increase in workers needed to meet demand." 

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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