The number of Airdrie residents who need in-core housing needs has increased by approximately 44 per cent in the last seven years, according to a 2024 Housing Assessments study that was presented to Council on Monday. 

Around 8 per cent of Airdrie's population would be identified as in need of core housing, which is defined, 'if their housing is unsuitable (in need of major repairs), inadequate (not enough bedrooms), or unaffordable because the household must spend 30 per cent or more of their total before-tax income to pay the median market rent.'

Kevin Cooper with Leading Housing Consulting underlined to council that Airdrie is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many residents, both for homeowners and renters.

"Airdrie's 2021 median income of $110,000 does not allow for households to afford the typical home with a benchmark price that is determined by the Calgary Real Estate Board [which is] $515,600 in August 2023; instead to afford such a home, a household would need to earn an income of at least $127,000 per year, which 16 per cent above the median income," he said.

Cooper added that renters are more likely to be vulnerable to needing core housing.

"Rentals for families are virtually non-existent in the purpose-built rental market, excluding many from moving territory and putting pressure on families already in Airdrie. 1.6 per cent of the rental housing stock is a three-bedroom or larger and even fewer allow pets."

Cooper explained that 1.3 per cent of Airdrie's households would be considered very low-income, while 14.4 per cent would be deemed as low-income.

"But what is also surprising is that core housing need is now creeping into the $55,000 to $88,000 category. Moreover, Airdrie has more very low-income households proportionately to core housing needs than Alberta. This is likely because few housing units in Airdrie provide housing for people making less than $22,000 per year in 2021." 

He predicted that more and more renters will need core housing as the real estate and rental market continues to be exceptionally tight. A Royal Bank of Canada bulletin observed that housing affordability for homeowners is the worst it has ever been since 1987.

"Rents have never been higher in Airdrie since 1990, except for a single year in 2015."

City documents further stipulated that while, 'Airdrie’s social serving organizations are deeply committed to serving vulnerable residents, the number and type of services offered fall short of meeting the need of the growing population.'

"No overnight emergency shelters or transitional housing and waitlists for the non-market housing provided by Airdrie Housing Limited and the Rocky View Foundation limit options for families and individuals who are struggling to afford shelter. These households face difficult choices, such as choosing between paying for food, medicine or rent."

Other data provided by Cooper was from Airdrie P.O.W.E.R (Protecting Our Women with Emergency Resources), which cited that 98 per cent of clients fleeing domestically violent and abusive environments need affordable housing. 

While it was noted that housing is not the jurisdiction of the municipality, both Cooper and Jessica DeVreeze with Community Safety and Social Services did add that the City has made strides in addressing affordable housing. These included establishing the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund as well as the Affordable Housing Incentive Policy. The City has also engaged in advocacy aimed at the Province of Alberta to increase funding for the Rent Assistance and Temporary Rent Assistance benefits.

"I absolutely would affirm that housing is not the municipality's responsibility. Unfortunately, though, you have to deal with the consequences," Cooper added. "Particularly for the city - that is not monetary - I would say expanding your Zoning Bylaw to be more permissive."

The assessment highlighted several points that the City could work towards in addressing affordable housing, including rent supplements, which would have the most immediate impact. Another initiative included establishing Permanent Supportive Housing opportunities in Airdrie.

"[This] will be critical to addressing homelessness in the long term. 3+ Bedroom units that are also dog-friendly will serve community needs, particularly for women-led families fleeing domestic violence. Ideally, some of these types of units would be established with a Rent-Geared-to-Income operating model so non-profit providers can target very low-income households."

A 2021 census stated that  1985 households need core housing; though that number is expected to rise to 2864 by 2031.

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