Calgary budget cuts could mean less affordable housing, experts warn

Two of the tax hike options being explored by Calgary city council would mean anywhere from $47,000 to $140,000 in cuts to Calgary's affordable housing sector, experts say.

City budget options could mean $47,000 to $140,000 in cuts to Calgary's affordable housing sector

Affordable shelter advocates fear cuts to the city budget will affect housing for vulnerable Calgarians. (CBC)

As city council debates three proposed options for property taxes, experts warn it could mean less affordable housing for Calgarians.

Council has three options: it can opt not to increase property taxes, boost them by 1.5 per cent or stick with an already approved three-per-cent increase.

Two of the tax hike options being explored by city council would mean anywhere from $47,000 to $140,000 in cuts to Calgary's affordable housing sector.

City administration says these cuts would erode their ability to build or regenerate housing units and may result in fewer Calgarians being housed.

Experts say cuts to affordable housing could have major trickle-down effects.

James Stauch with Mount Royal University's Institute for Community Prosperity says the impact of less affordable housing goes beyond that, and would mean increased costs and pressures on police, the justice system and the health care system.

"All of these costs start to ripple out," Stauch said. "If people don't have a home, their lives quickly spiral out of control and affect so many other systems."

Staunch added that housing is at the root of social stability.

"It actually can help with health care," he said. "It can lower the rate of incarceration. It can lower the rate of substance abuse and many, many other costs to various systems, from the police to ambulance services to health care to addiction services. Housing is critical as a base for human stability."

Katrina Milaney, with the University of Calgary's community rehab and disability studies department, says cuts to the sector could spell disaster.

"We saw an increase of 1,000 per cent in homelessness once the federal government stopped investing in affordable housing." 

Milaney says she hopes those consequences are top of mind when councillors make their decision.

Citizens are invited to bring their views directly to council starting Nov. 25, when there will be a public meeting on the proposed budget adjustments. 

With files from Lucie Edwardson


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