Calgary

Rosedale affordable housing gets nod from Calgary committee despite 'soul-destroying' public opposition

"Soul-destroying" comments from Rosedale residents who expressed worry about low-income people moving into their community shouldn't stop council from considering a plan to build 16 affordable housing units on eight skinny plots of unused land, says the councillor for the area

Some residents worry about 'class of people' who might move in next to 'million dollar homes'

Coun. Druh Farrell represents Calgary's Ward 7, which includes the community of Rosedale. (CBC)

"Soul-destroying" comments from Rosedale residents who expressed worry about low-income people moving into their community shouldn't stop council from considering a plan to build 16 affordable housing units on eight skinny plots of unused land, says the councillor for the area.

The "extremely modest" project will make good use of the city-owned, inner-city land and help meet Calgary's goal of providing affordable housing in every community, said Coun. Druh Farrell.

A majority of the city's land and asset committee agreed on Thursday, endorsing the proposal, which will next go to city council, as a whole, for a vote.

Coun. Shane Keating was the only committee member to vote against the proposal, saying he doesn't oppose it in principle but thinks the details need "more debate."

Many area residents oppose the very idea of adding affordable housing to Rosedale, however, expressing their opposition through a petition and in comments written and emailed to city staff as part of an earlier public engagement process.

"Multi low income housing next to million dollar homes makes no sense," one area resident wrote.

"I think that affordable housing is a great thing as long as it fits the neighbourhood," wrote another. "My concerns are the possible class of people that would be renting these affordable housing units"

"Would the city put one in the middle of Mount Royal?" wrote another, referring to the well off community in Calgary's southwest. "Enough said."

'Quite insane bigotry' mixed with legitimate concerns

Coun. Evan Woolley described much of the feedback as "quite insane bigotry" but noted many residents, including those who spoke to the committee directly, also expressed more legitimate concerns about planning issues and whether the proposal would make best use of the land.

The lots are all located adjacent to the sound wall that runs along the south side of 16th Avenue North, between 4A Street N.W. and Ninth Street N.W. 

Colin Crump, who lives adjacent to one of the skinny lots, said he's expressed interest in buying it for years but the city wouldn't sell it to him.

One of the currently unused patches of land that city staff are proposing to turn into skinny lots for affordable homes. (CBC)

"If there was ever an opportunity, I would purchase it," Crump told the committee.

"The fact is, these properties never went to the market to see if anyone was actually interested in them."

Tom Spear, who lives next to another one of the lots, said he also inquired "many times" about purchasing the extra bit of land.

"I was told several times that it was not going to be available but if I wanted to buy all eight of them, I could," he said.

Farrell said she respected the points made directly to committee, in contrast to the "very upsetting" comments other residents wrote to the city.

"Those comments are soul-destroying," she said.

"I hope that that's not the prevailing point with the people that live in community. I don't believe that it is."

Calgary Housing Company's plan

The city-owned Calgary Housing Company (CHC) hopes to build small homes on the eight lots, each with a main unit and a secondary suite, to help meet the overwhelming demand for affordable housing it faces.

There are more than 3,000 households on the CHC waiting list, Farrell noted, and the city has added zero new units in the previous three years.

Keating said he has "no difficulty with the concept" but wonders if all eight of these lots have to be used in the same way, especially if there is market demand for the land.

"There could be an opportunity where we could sell off four, take that money and build elsewhere and get more bedrooms per unit," he said.

The project has a $3.96-million budget, which consists of an estimated $225,000 construction cost for each of the 16 units, plus $360,000 in contingency costs.

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