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Airdrie to develop below-market housing strategy

A below-market housing strategy is coming to Airdrie.
The City of Airdrie is working to implement a Below Market Housing Strategy, aimed at creating a framework to increase affordable housing options. File photo/For Airdrie City View

A strategy to address the city's lack of below-market housing options is coming to Airdrie.

During a regular council meeting June 21, Airdrie City council voted to endorse a staff recommendation to pursue the development of a Below-Market Housing Strategy (BMHS) – a framework to increase the City’s affordable housing options.

According to Matthew MacNeil with Housing Strategies Inc., who presented a report to council, the purpose of the BMHS is to advance the City of Airdrie’s strategic priority of increasing the municipality’s below-market housing options.

“Access to safe, stable housing that both meets your needs and is affordable within your means is key not only to your self-reliance but also your ability to adapt to the many changes life brings,” his report stated. “It is a basic human right.”

According to the staff report submitted in the June 21 meeting agenda, over the last four years, administration has taken several steps to understand the current state of housing in Airdrie and to move council’s priority forward.

In 2017, administration assessed the city’s housing supply, which determined 0.3 per cent (75 units/space) of Airdrie's housing stock is considered to be “below-market” rentals. The national average is six per cent.

Below-market rentals refer to social-type housing, built specifically for low-income individuals, families and seniors.

The report to council indicated social planning conducted further research to understand population demographics and who is at risk of Airdrie's inadequate affordable housing stock.

“There are residents who are in core housing needs which means they need deep housing subsidies,” the report stated.  “There are also residents that need a hand-up to be able to afford market housing, such as lone-parent households, one-person households, households with children under 18 and households with at least one person with activity limitations.”

MacNeil’s presentation outlined the City’s goals as the BMHS process moves forward. He said the process includes providing a full range of housing options, a robust and well-rounded approach, a “one stop shop” for housing clients and proactive planning.

“The goal for below-market housing in Airdrie should not be either or, but rather a desire to achieve both,” MacNeil’s presentation stated.

In terms of a timeline, the interim report stated the BMHS is envisioned to occur through four “progressive stages” over the next 20 years. Stage 1 includes defining the strategy and establishing a clear foundation and framework for its successful implementation, which is expected to be complete by 2023.

The next stage, according to the report, will require the City to strengthen Airdrie’s BMHS by expanding the capacity to “affect positive action and change in the system,” along with expanding the participation of local and regional stakeholders in the development and delivery of an increasing array of below-market housing options. This stage is expected to take place over the next three to five years.

Stage 3, which would take place over the next six to 10 years, centers around narrowing the below-market housing gaps in Airdrie.

The fourth and final stage would take place over the next 11 to 20 years and would aim to achieve a truly integrated below-market housing system that provides residents genuine opportunities for effective transitioning into full-market housing.

Mayor Peter Brown said the item coming before council shows how far the City has come in terms of its affordable housing approach.

“We are finally making some strides in this area, which is nice to see after so many years of trying,” he said.

Coun. Tina Petrow brought up her excitement about Stage 4 of the plan after viewing the presentation.

“I can't tell you how excited Stage 4 gets me, seeing the full picture,” she said. “You can see people moving through there and getting to where they need to be.”

Jordan Stricker,
Follow me on Twitter @Jay_Strickz

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