There is a strong relationship between housing, healthy cities, healthy neighbourhoods and healthy individuals (Sawatsky and Stroick 2005).” Access to shelter is listed among the pre-requisites for health in the Ottawa Charter. Along with peace, adequate economic resources, food, a stable eco-system and sustainable resource use. These pre-requisites highlight “the inextricable links between social and economic conditions, the physical environment, individual lifestyles and health. These links provide the key to an holistic understanding of health which is central to the definition of health promotion (Ottawa Charter).”

affordable housing project, Ogden Road SE

Canada’s Gross National Product in 2010 was $1.600 trillion based on Statistics Canada data.

Calgary needs to control its urban sprawl which is among the worst in Canada. Higher density to limit the sprawl is crucial as Calgary anticipates to double its population over the next 50 years. Mayor Nenshi on Twitter argues that we need government housing for the really tough cases, nonprofit for some, and private sector for most. He is really promoting the concept of allowing secondary suites in Calgary neighbourhoods. It seems to me that the Attainable Housing initiatives are the only one on the block. What about economic diversity in every neighbourhood through a number of different initiatives not just secondary suites which are not ideal living situations? Calgary does not respond well enough to the need for rental housing for those earning less than the attainable homes initiatives target.

In some markets, the secondary market – the universe of basement apartments, apartments over storefronts, flats in single-and semi-detached homes and row houses, and rented condominiums – has acted as an important safety valve. But, it is a less stable source of supply, and so by itself cannot provide a long-term solution to the affordable housing shortage. (TD 2003).
Why is affordable housing located under Corporate Properties in the City of Calgary? When was it moved there?

Fact Sheet on Affordable Housing

    1. The federal government estimates that the cost of homelessness by 2007 had reached c. $4.5 – $6 billion annually. This includes costs of health care, crime and other social services (Laird, 2007: 5). Yet Canada’s Economic Action Plan for all kinds of affordable housing options only provides c. $500 million annually leaving most of the costs to the municipal level residential tax base. Canada’s Economic Action Plan provides $475 million, over two years; to build new rental housing for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities, and $850 million to provinces and territories over two years for the renovation and retrofit of existing provincially/territorially administered social housing. Overall, the Economic Action Plan includes $2 billion for the construction of new and the renovation of existing social housing, plus up to $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure. Canada’s Economic Action Plan builds on the Government of Canada’s commitment in 2008 of more than $1.9 billion, over five years, to improve and build new affordable housing and help the homeless. As part of this commitment the Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) was extended for two years, bringing the total federal investment in housing under the AHI to $1.25 billion since its inception.
    2. Across Canada emergency shelter use is on the rise particularly in urban centers. By 2007 40,000 people every night including children used emergency temporary shelters (Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2007).
    3. Research suggests that on average moving a homeless person from an emergency shelter to stable housing saves taxpayers $9,000 a year (FCM 2011-04).
    4. On an annualized basis costs in existing responses, averaged across four cities (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax) in 2005 were: Institutional responses (prison/detention and psychiatric hospitals: $66,000 to $120,000; Emergency shelters (cross section of youth, men’s women’s, family and victims of violence): $13,000 to $42,000; Supportive and transitional housing: $13,000 to $18,000; Affordable housing without supports (singles and family): $5,000 to $8,000 (Pomeroy 2005). In terms of public policy then “Where the cost advantage of the supportive and affordable housing options become meaningful is in addressing future demand, which will inevitably increase as populations continue to expand. Directing new investment to the lower cost (and arguably more effective) supportive option is likely to be more cost efficient than investing in new prisons, psychiatric hospitals and
      emergency shelters (Pomeroy 2005).”
    5. “Approximately 35,000 Calgary families are having difficulty affording adequate housing. Over the past ten years [2000-2010?], housing prices have increased 156 per cent, yet incomes have increased only 34 per cent over that same time (OLSH).”
    6. “There is currently a waiting list of more than 4,200 individuals and families with the Calgary Housing Company (CHC), Calgary’s leading affordable housing provider  (OLSH).”
    7. In 2004 the estimated cost of building was c. $1,890/m2 ($175/sq. ft) for concrete and $1,512/m2 ($140/ sq. ft) for wood. In 2011 the average cost per sq. ft is $125 – 155 sq ft. Unit sizes affordable housing: one-bedroom units from 500 sq. ft, two-bedroom units 700-800 sq. ft [800 sq. ft. @ $150 = $120, 000 x 36 units = $4 320 000] and three-bedroom units up to 1,000 sq. ft.
    8. Since 1993, the Provincial and Federal governments substantially reduced the capital funding of new affordable housing. This was part of a widespread decentralization, devolution and deregulation process intended to make housing markets more fairly competitive by eliminating state involvement at the same time cutting public costs. This did not work to advantage on a number of social issues such as affordable housing which has resulted in unintended and very costly consequences.
    9. There is a fiscal imbalance between municipal, provincial and the federal governments that jeopardizes the municipalities ability to respond to affordable housing issues. Cities like Calgary are highly and almost singularly dependent on property taxes (92.7%) as the primary source of funding (along with user fees and intergovernmental grants) to finance service provisions (T.D. ECONOMICS, 2004) such as affordable housing and social services. This is inherently flawed. There are many reasons why property tax revenues are inherently flawed as a source of funding for cities’growing needs and are a poor match for funding in the area of income redistribution services (more).
From Land Use Amendment Proposal
  1. The market is unable to deliver new rental stock. An astonishing 95% of the housing starts in the most recent five-year period have been in the ownership market, with rental construction accounting for only 5% of the market. Just 15 years ago, the proportion was 75% ownership and 25% rental.
  2. “A1996 Cambridge University study  that compared the housing systems and housing policies of 12 Western  nations found that, compared to all other countries, “Canada has an essentially free market approach to housing finance.  Owneroccupation has the advantage of not paying capital gains tax, whilst there is very little support for investment in the private rental sector, and tenants receive very little support in paying rents” (Hulchanski, 2002: 7, citing Freeman, Holmans, and Whitehead, 1996: n.p. cited in (Sawatsky and Stroick 2005).”
  3. Existing formal rental stock has been demolished or converted to condos.
  4. A buoyant economy in Calkgary bolstered in-migration causing a higher demand for rental housing.
  5. Alberta’s minimum wage is the second-lowest in Canada (BC has the lowest). Alberta’s minimum wage is $8.80 per hour. A total of 11 Canadian provinces or territories have a minimum wage rate higher then Alberta. Full time hourly minimum wage workers in Alberta earn a total of $352.00 per week and approximately $18,304.00 per year (based on a 8 hour days and a 260-day work year).
  6. Social Assistance rates did not increase between1993 and 2002
  7. In 2008, “as the nation headed into a brutal recession, there were just over 3 million Canadians living in poverty using the standard measure, Statistic Canada’s after-tax low-income cut-off (LICO) (more).”
  8. Approximately 1.27 million households (or 12.4 percent of Canadian households) live in housing that requires major repairs, is overcrowded, and/or costs more than 30 percent of household income (more).
  9. One in five Calgarians lived in poverty in 2002.
  10. Minimal new social housing was built for people who cannot afford market rents. 2002
  11. In Canada the federal, provincial and municipal governments have roles and responsibilities to address housing issues. But most of the responsibility has fallen to municipal governments to find and fund solutions.
  12. According to a 2003 KPMG study of corporations in the United States, quality of life indicators were important key business environment factors. It was also important that a city had low crime, good access to health facilities, access to affordable housing and educational facilities (more).


Further Reading

External Links
Federation of Canadian Municipalities http://www.fcm.ca/CMFiles/bcmcfinal1LND-3282008-4938.pdf
Policy Alternatives http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/fast-facts-electing-house-canadians-or-not

Click to access thresholds_locating_affordable_housing.pdf


Sawatsky and Stroick 2005
Ottawa Charter