Airdrie's City Council endorsed a new Affordable Housing Incentive Policy on Monday afternoon. The incentives in the policy are the exemption of municipal development permits and building permit fees.

"This initiative is intended to encourage and streamline the construction of much-needed affordable housing units thereby enhancing the stability and well-being of the City," the policy states.

In his presentation to the city council, Jamal Ramjohn, Manager of Community Growth at the City of Airdrie said that the heart of the policy lies in its ability to incentivize and retain affordable housing opportunities by reducing development and operational costs for housing for developers and operators. 

Ramjohn explained that the policy will only apply to providers with existing land and or building assets where they are a non-profit.

"They will see all units proposed eligible for the fee exemption while for-profit providers will see only those units designated for affordable housing eligible for the exemption."

Successful applicants must enter into a legal agreement with the city committing to the provision of affordable housing for at least the next 15 years, either for the entirety or for the portion of the development that applies.

"This reduction in costs is not only beneficial for beneficiaries of the policy but also improves the long-term viability of affordable housing in our city," he said. 

Ramjohn believes that there will be between zero to two affordable housing applications per year, which may result in an annual revenue loss of approximately $50,000.

"In 2022, for example, two qualifying projects could have benefited from this policy. Airdrie Housing Limited's 38-unit hotel conversion at 815 East Lake Boulevard and the Rockyview Foundation's Abrio Place [with] 96 rooms; [the] seniors housing project at 52 East Lake Avenue generated municipal application fees of $32,608.85, and $18,749.68 respectively. Both organizations have requested refunds for these fees based on the council's approval of this policy."

Deputy Mayor and Councillor Ron Chapman queried whether those who wanted to develop secondary suites who also be able to use the policy to their favour. Ramjohn said that in short, they would not be able to do so. 

The policy does underline that to request a fee exemption, developers, builders,  and/or organizations must submit a request to the City describing how their project complies with the policy's qualifying requirements. 

Jessica DeVreeze Affordable Housing Strategist for the City clarified that because affordable housing from an income standpoint changes year-to-year, based on Airdrie's median income and a household's ability to pay based on 30 per cent of their income. She explained that the policy states that a provider of affordable housing has to continuously meet that definition based on the differing median income year-to-year.

"If a provider of affordable housing has to meet continuously meet that definition, that rent has to continuously be floated through and applied to the current median income in the city of Airdrie."

The approval of the policy comes after a previous city council meeting in February 2023, in which council confirmed the City of Airdrie’s support to the Rocky View Foundation Abrio Place seniors housing project would include a building permit fee exemption.

"At the meeting, the Council also directed the Administration to “create a policy that is equal or fair, or (draft) an amendment to the (Development and Building Permit Fees) Bylaw, to address permit fees for affordable housing providers," city documents stated.

Airdrie City Council's decision comes one day after the City of Calgary announced its own affordable housing strategy after a three-public engagement session and council deliberations.

The amendments that the Calgary council voted in favour of include leveraging City-owned sites for emergency housing for families, investigating business licensing for residential landlords, as well as considering infrastructure investments for increased densities, among others.

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