A win-win solution to our affordable housing crisis?

by | Feb 21, 2022 | TSMV

The lack of affordable housing for families who live and work here (a.k.a. “vital homes”) was a big topic during last winter’s TSMV hearings. Have you thought much about it since?

With Family Day upon us, and a public hearing about a new, 120-unit townhome development in Canmore’s downtown core scheduled for next week, there’s an incredible opportunity to create a win-win situation and make a substantial difference to the stock of vital homes for Canmore families.

The Canadian Rockies Public Schools’ (CRPS) currently owns this land, which is located next to a daycare, the middle school, and Main Street. With no wildlife or undermining issues to be concerned about, the property is perfectly suited to increase Canmore’s inventory of affordable ownership.

The current proposal for the Lawrence Grassi Middle School Area Redevelopment Plan would build 80 units of market housing, 20 units of employee housing, and just 20 units of affordable housing. The CRPS intends to invest the significant profit they’ll make from the 80 market units into a long term endowment fund to supplement future education.

This sounds reasonable on the surface, but given the urgency of Canmore’s affordable housing crisis, it also generates questions. For example, is it a good idea to invest in a fund to supplement education when so many families (and students) are leaving due to a lack of affordable housing? And, given that the school board and its assets are already funded by taxpayers, is it appropriate for the school board alone to decide the best use of this property?

It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, it could be a win-win situation. With the right minds in the room, a deal between the Town and CRPS could be reached to convert all of the 80 proposed market units to vital homes. For example, the Town could give CRPS some land they own elsewhere to compensate for the difference. So instead of 20 affordable homes, the development would add 100.

To put things in perspective, Canmore only has an inventory of 142 vital homes for ownership. Adding 100 new vital homes would increase the current stock by 70 percent!

This kind of outside-the-box thinking is what will be required for our community to solve our affordability crisis. Unless we change our thinking, we are going to keep getting the same results.

That’s why we’ve created a letter for you to sign and send to our mayor and town councillors. If you remember, they each campaigned to make a tangible difference to the lack of affordable housing. Now is their chance — this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring vitality to our downtown core.

Don’t delay. The deadline for letters is this Thursday, February 24th. Or, if you prefer to say a few words during the public hearing on Tuesday March 1, be sure to sign up here.

Have a great day!

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