Town needs plan to increase affordable housing

By: Wheel Staff

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 03:33 pm

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Okotoksí affordable housing situation is past the critical point and the Town canít afford to wait until after annexation to come up with a plan.

Rental vacancy rates in Okotoks have been virtually zero for more than a year, rents are rising, the Foothills Foundationís wait list for affordable housing is growing and thereís no land available for new affordable housing projects.

While the affordable housing market impacts those in lower-paid jobs most, they arenít the only ones to be affected. Although, when it costs upwards of $1,300 per month to rent an apartment or $2,000 per month to rent a house it makes it particularly hard on low-income earners.

The Townís options are few, but there are still some things it can do to ease the affordable housing crunch until the annexation process is complete and more land opens up to development.

Town council can open the door to allowing more basement suites in existing neighbourhoods.

It can encourage the construction of more multi-family projects on undeveloped land in town.

The Town can also offer incentives to developers to build more rental properties.

It already offers a density bonus to developers if they take steps to conserve water in new subdivisions, allowing them to build more homes in new communities. If it can do that, the Town can find a way to encourage developers to build more rental properties.

Unfortunately, the supply of land available for new residential development is limited.

However, increasing the number of rental properties on what land is available in town could make a difference. Foothills Foundation CAO Lauren Ingalls said it could provide rent supplements to as many as 30 additional families if there were only more rental properties available.

It will also allow basic-market forces to hopefully bring down prices as supply increases.

As bad as things currently are, there is a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Town is in a perfect position to come up with a plan for affordable housing as Okotoks grows to make sure it doesnít find itself in this position again.


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