The province has released more details on how the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, also known as Bill 20 would potentially help with accelerating affordable and attainable housing development for municipalities. 

According to the province, proposed amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) through Bill 20 would fully exempt non-profit subsidized affordable housing from municipal and education property taxes.

"The changes to the MGA will also enable municipalities to offer multi-year residential property tax exemptions to encourage more housing development."

Previously, Mayor Peter Brown, in his reaction to Bill 20, said that this is something that Airdrie has advocated for in the past, underlining this could be a benefit to Airdrie. 

On Wednesday morning Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ric McIver and Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, Jason Nixon, gave more details on the proposals.

"This is a blanket property tax exemption for all nonprofit subsidized affordable housing in Alberta. Municipalities told me that they are interested in supporting affordable and attainable housing through taxation measures, and we will work with them so they understand which properties will qualify for this property tax exemption," McIver said.

Another proposal that McIver enumerated is limiting the ability of municipalities to require non-statutory studies for building and developing permits.

"We recognize relevant studies can be important for effective planning and development, but sometimes municipalities require studies that are not necessary and costly and delay the building of the affordable housing that this province and the people in it so desperately need and they need it now. We will work with municipalities and industry to identify what kinds of studies are appropriate and clarify those requirements in regulation."

McIver said that his Ministry is also other avenues to help municipalities obtain affordable housing, including expanding the criteria of The Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) program guidelines to include the capital costs of privately owned affordable or attainable housing in addition to projects from the public and not for profit sectors.

He explained that a Community Revitalization Levy or CRL is a planning and financing tool that allows a municipality to dedicate future property tax revenues over a defined and not permanent period of time to finance redevelopment projects within a designated area.

"The CRL program has already seen great success in Calgary and Edmonton and other communities like Cochrane and Airdrie are using it as well. Our goal is that this approach gives cities one more tool they can consider using to address housing issues at the local level. The changes I've spoken about so far are applied to any and all Alberta municipalities."

In his announcement yesterday, McIver also said that the government would propose changes to city charters in Calgary and Edmonton, which are, 'are intended to remove potential barriers to housing development.'

"Off-site levies are additional costs that a municipality can charge to developers for the future of building new developments. We are clarifying the rules for off-site levies to ensure transparency and accountability. Unlike every other municipality in Alberta, there's currently a limited ability for developers to appeal off-site levy decisions in Calgary and Edmonton."

The proposed updates, in the government's view, would allow developers to appeal off-site levies to the Land and Property Rights Tribunal, which developers can do in other Alberta municipalities.

"The second significant change concerns the provisions around a specialized form of zoning called inclusionary housing. It's a policy unique to Calgary and Edmonton in their charters, which navels them to require developers to provide either housing units land or money, which the big cities could then use to increase non-market housing. We've heard from the development community inclusionary housing could have a chilling effect on their ability, their willingness to invest in cities to build housing," McIver said. 

The last proposed change to the city’s' charters would include removing bylaw-making authority for cities to require energy efficiency standards that are more stringent than Alberta’s building code, as this could drive up construction costs.

The Alberta NDP has continued to be critical of the government's bill. Janis Irwin, Alberta NDP Housing Critic said that by embedding provisions for affordable housing into a 'terrible bill is not a win for Albertans.'

"Instead, this government should shred the authoritarian Bill 20, and the gatekeeping Bill 18, which risk slowing development for much-needed affordable housing. These pieces of legislation consolidate power in the hands of Danielle Smith and her cabinet. These bills do nothing to fortify trust with municipalities that are working hard to address the housing crisis."

On Wednesday evening, a statement was issued on behalf of Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis) President Tyler Gandam and the association’s Board of Directors.

"We followed today’s affordable housing announcement by Minister Jason Nixon and Minister McIver with interest. The changes made in Bill 20 to help accelerate affordable housing projects appear beneficial, but they could have been even better if the provincial government had consulted the experts – local governments. With input from municipal representatives, the provincial government could have done more and made further improvements.

The statement underlined that the organization has sought to discuss its members’ valid concerns and work together to find solutions, but added that they are now calling for Bill 20 to be rescinded.

"Alberta Municipalities calls on the Government of Alberta to scrap Bill 20 and go back to the drawing board. It cannot be salvaged. Bill 20 is rushed, deeply flawed, and full of half-baked changes that do not withstand scrutiny."

However, there has also been praise by mayors surrounding Airdrie regarding Wednesday's announcement. Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung, who is also the Chair of the Alberta Mid-sized Cities Mayors’ Caucus said that mid-sized cities are among Alberta’s fastest-growing communities and that addressing the challenge of building more affordable homes for Albertans is one of their biggest priorities.

"We welcome efforts to increase the housing supply. We look forward to working with the province to ensure that all municipalities, regardless of their size, are included in the development and rollout of these housing policies in a manner that works for our communities.

Last week, Minister McIver announced that the province would be working with municipalities to work on amendments to Bill 20, after a deluge of criticism from organizations that represent both medium-sized and rural municipalities as well as the Alberta NDP.

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