City council has directed administration to look into whether two city-owned parcels of land could be utilized to be developed into residential housing, as well as potentially allocating the land to becoming affordable housing.

The decision by council came after it was presented with an agenda report that enumerated the municipality's actions thus far to address housing needs in the city and what more can be done. Jessica DeVreeze who presented to council on Tuesday, underlined that land is the 'linchpin component for initiating affordable housing projects.'

"Our municipal tools are really about being an attractive partner to those whose business it is to build and operate homes, and that is the private industry and nonprofit housing providers," she stated. 

DeVreeze said that the most direct way to improve Airdrie's deficit of 'below-market' homes, would be to allocate land and cash.

"... Which will in turn work to leverage much greater investments from the other orders of government."

​According to city documents, last year, city administration, 'conducted a thorough investigation of all City-owned vacant land that met best practice criteria for affordable housing, resulting in identifying two parcels that have potential for residential development and have no new or emerging civic uses.'

The two parcels identified were 2819 Chinook Winds Drive S.W. and the 40th Avenue Interchange Remnant, though it was underlined that more investigation would be required before the scope of the development potential of these two sites is further determined.

Two city-owned land parcels have been identified as potentially helping the affordable housing deficit Airdrie is facing. (Graphic credit to City of Airdrie)Two city-owned land parcels have been identified as potentially helping the affordable housing deficit Airdrie is facing. (Graphic credit to City of Airdrie)

"This flexibility would mean that in addition to residential development of affordable housing on the site, we could also consider options such as selling the site and using the proceeds to purchase a different land parcel or building assets elsewhere like downtown, as well as options to lease the site to an affordable housing provider or disperse the site to an affordable housing provider."

DeVreeze also added that allocating these parcels would be considered a first step in supporting projects led by non-profit organizations.

"The city will need to develop a more fulsome land acquisition and disposition program to facilitate more nonprofit-led affordable housing projects in the future."

However, DeVreeze also explained that solutions are also based on policies that would further diversify Airdrie's housing market. She mentioned a set of policy initiatives that Airdrie put forward in the City's successful proposal to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Housing Accelerator Fund.

"The policy initiatives aligned with the goals set out in Airdrie 2024-2030 Affordable Housing Principal Action Plan. These solutions are all actions within municipal control that will create the enabling environment for industry to build the homes that are lower cost than the [average price for a home in Airdrie]."

She said that the types of homes that are needed in Airdrie are classified as 'missing middle' homes, and this includes secondary suites, low-rise condominiums, as well as duplexes. City documents outlined several more initiatives that the city is encouraged to undertake to further encourage housing diversity. This includes among other things:

  • Improving zoning efficiency and flexibility by revising zoning and land use policies to accommodate a broader range of housing types in new and established communities (for example: more broadly permitted use of secondary suites).
  • Achieve efficiencies in the permitting process.
  • Enable more housing in strategic areas with reduced car dependency, including downtown and along transit corridors.
  • Accelerate Airdrie’s downtown development incentives, including Community Revitalization Levy projects. 
  • Robust public engagement on appropriate housing solutions.

"All actions that require legislative steps such as Public Hearings or Amendments to Bylaws will be brought to the Committee and Council as per the regular legislated process," documents underlined. 

DeVreeze also mentioned an announcement made by the federal government, a $6 billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund. The fund is meant to support critical water infrastructure upgrades that are needed in cities like Airdrie to support the growth and population.

"The funds will flow directly both directly to municipalities such as HAF [Housing Accelerator Fund] did, as well as through deals with the provinces. A requirement for accessing the fund will be allowing more missing middle homes. We are confident that the recommended policy items will bring the industry home builders to the table and allow the City to meet the requirements of upcoming external funding opportunities."

Councillor Ron Chapman, however, asked DeVreeze what guarantees could be made that potential builders would sell the housing units below market value if monetary incentives were granted to them. DeVreeze conceded there is no guarantee on that front.

"From what we can do as a municipality, [is] to ensure that the market base price of a home is going to be within this certain range. Many, many other variables will come into play. What we do know, is that we can get out of the way of making the price of homes increase based on our municipal processes and the things that we control," she said. 

Mayor Peter Brown concurred that there is a housing deficit in Airdrie, though he underscored that in his view there is already housing diversity in Airdrie. He underscored that secondary suites are already permitted in Airdrie and that he believes the city development process is already streamlined. 

"Any developer I've talked to that works with us said they don't know if Airdrie can do much more. We've added a lot of homes since I've been here for 14 years, and we've also had a lot [more] homeless. I appreciate that we want to have a community where everybody can get home... but I guess, is it possible? I don't know that." 

Despite his reservations, Mayor Brown supported the motion. 

In a February report from the Calgary Real Estate Board, the unadjusted benchmark price for a home in Airdrie reached $529,700, over one per cent higher than the previous month and 10 per cent higher than the $479,700 price reported last February.'

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