Recommendations of the Housing and Affordability Task Force
The 60 recommendations of the Housing and Affordability Task Force (HATF) and City Administration will be reviewed by the Community Development Committee (CDC) and a public hearing will be held on September 14, 2023 at 9:30 am (Item 7.1). You can view the meeting online at www.calgary.ca/watchlive. The issue will go to a special Council meeting on September 16, 2023 for final approval. For the report and public submissions go to https://www.calgary.ca/council/meetings/agenda-minutes.html#agendas and click on the agenda for September 14.
The submission from the Varsity Community Association is attached for your information.
Most people would agree with the need for more affordable housing, however, some of the recommendations are cause for concern. Few Calgarians are aware of the details of these recommendations and the impact it will have on them.
Make the base residential district R-CG with guidance for single, semi-detached, row and townhouses into a single land use district.
R-CG allows 8 housing units on a 50 foot residential lot (4 main units and 4 secondary suites). This means it would be legal to build a rowhouse development on any lot without rezoning the land and without a public hearing. Most infill developments are quite expensive and there is little evidence that this policy will increase affordability. This is a major change in planning policy and Calgarians deserve to be consulted.
R-CG is quite different from R-2 and R-1 development and they aren’t always compatible side by side which is why the merits of each application should be decided on a case by case basis rather than being allowed on all lots.
R-CG has 60% lot coverage as opposed to the 45% lot coverage for single family and semi-detached homes. R-CG has a maximum height of 11 metres (3 stories) whereas R-1 is 10 metres. The greater height and massing and significant reduction in grass and the urban tree canopy on these lots can result in reduced quality of life and property values for neighbouring properties. Since R-CG allows for eight households on one lot with reduced or no parking requirements on-site it can create parking issues in the community. The storage space required for 24 waste, recycling and compost bins is also significant. These differences can have a negative impact on individual properties and communities so it is essential that public hearings be maintained to ensure people are heard.
Remove minimum parking requirements in all residential districts.
Although this may slightly reduce building costs, it is unlikely to significantly increase affordability. Inadequate parking can create severe issues in communities.
Advocate to the Government of Alberta to allow affordable housing to be exempt from planning process requirements such as public hearings.
Public hearings are a cornerstone of the democratic process and the reduction in timelines would be minimal. Usually the collaboration between the city, developer, and communities is beneficial and results in a better project.
It is important to let City Council know your opinion on these recommendations. You can go to https://www.calgary.ca/council/mayor/dyncrm-mayor-contact.html and https://www.calgary.ca/council/dyncrm-councillors-contact.html and fill out the forms online.
You can also email the councilors at email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to speak at the public hearing on September 14, go to https://forms.calgary.ca/content/forms/af/public/public/public-submission-to-city-clerks.html.
If you require more information you can email Jo Anne Atkins, Director of Civic Affairs at email@example.com. We would appreciate it if you could copy us on your letters to Council.
Submission from the Varsity Community Association
September 5, 2023
Community Development Committee City of Calgary
RE: Recommendations of the Housing and Affordability Task Force Dear Mayor Gondek & Members of City Council,
Dear Mayor Gondek & Members of City Council,
Like most citizens of Calgary, we agree with the need for affordable housing and we commend the Task Force for their work in exploring this issue.
We note the Task Force states in its opening message that many recommendations will need thoughtful consideration and engagement with Calgarians and that all will have a significant impact for Calgary if they are implemented. Under Next Steps, the Task Force again refers to “public engagement requirements”. Unfortunately, very few Calgarians are currently aware of the recommendations and have not had an opportunity to contemplate or discuss them. We wholeheartedly agree with the need for public engagement due to the significant impact of these recommendations and trust that the City will embark on a robust and thorough engagement process regarding these recommendations prior to implementation.
Recommendation 1 (b) Rescind the Single Detached Special Policy Area in the Guide to Local Planning, immediately.
We do not support this recommendation as it has no relationship with affordable housing. Establishing Single Detached Policy Areas in Local Area Plans should have no impact on housing affordability. The Special Policy Area was passed by Council to address community concerns expressed at multiple public hearings. There are numerous situations where this policy would still be appropriate. A public hearing should be held on this proposed amendment if Council decides to proceed.
Recommendation 1 (d) Prepare the necessary bylaws to immediately: I. Make the base residential district R-CG with guidance for single, semi-detached, row and townhouses into a single land use district.
We do not support this recommendation. Evidence that this policy will increase housing affordability has not been provided. Anecdotal evidence shows most infill developments are actually quite expensive. This is a radical change in planning policy that would likely not be supported by the majority of Calgarians. In addition to greater height, R-CG has 60% lot coverage as opposed to the 45% lot coverage for single family and semi-detached homes. The increased height and massing and significant reduction in the urban tree canopy on these lots can result in reduced quality of life and property values for neighbouring properties. Also, R-CG allows for eight households on one lot with reduced parking requirements which can create parking issues in the community (not to mention the storage required for 24 waste, recycling and compost bins). Since these significant differences between different types of housing can have a negative impact on individual properties and communities it is essential that public hearings be maintained as part of the democratic process. lt would be inappropriate for land uses with such different characteristics to be grouped together into a single land use district. Most people are not aware of this recommendation and extensive public engagement is warranted followed by a public hearing and perhaps even a plebiscite.
Recommendation 1 (e) In the new Land Use Bylaw: I. Remove minimum parking requirements in all residential districts.
We have serious concerns with this recommendation. We are not aware of any evidence that this will increase housing affordability even though it may slightly reduce building costs for developers. Inadequate parking can create severe quality of life issues in communities. Has any consideration been given to the long term implications of on-street vs on-site parking as we transition to electric vehicles that need charging overnight?
Recommendation 1 (f) Complete City-initiated land use redesignations by Q2 2024 to: I. Implement R-CG the base residential district across Calgary
See comments under 1(d).
Recommendation 1 (f) II. Implement H-GO in residential areas within proximity to transit, main streets and other corridors.
We support this recommendation on appropriate sites as determined on a case-by-case basis.
Recommendation 1 (h) Advocate to the Government of Alberta for legislative change to the MGA to allow affordable housing to be defined in a manner that exempts it from certain planning process requirements such as public hearing, which increases certainty and reduces timelines for developers and providers.
We strongly oppose this recommendation. Public hearings and public engagement are cornerstones of the democratic process. The reduction in timelines would be minimal. Usually the collaboration between the city, developer, and communities is beneficial and results in a better project.
Recommendation 5 (a) Advocate to: i. The Provincial Government to dedicate a portion of the Municipal Reserve for the purpose of establishing land banks in all new communities for Affordable Housing. (Example: 1/5 of the overall 10% dedication)
We have concerns that this recommendation could have a negative impact on new communities by reducing the amount of land that is available for schools, parks, and natural areas. The higher the density the more important our parks and open spaces become in order to properly serve the increased population. We would like more information on the possible impact this recommendation would have on new communities.
Are we limiting ourselves by primarily focusing on R-CG?
One general concern we have is that there seems to be a focus on R-CG zoning in preference to other medium and high density housing forms. Affordable housing comes in many built forms, and some would argue that apartment buildings provide much more affordable housing than infill development. It would be short-sighted to only rely on R-CG development to solve the affordable housing crisis. We have a number of large projects currently under construction including Northland Mall and Stadium Shopping Centre. There are numerous vacant sites that can accommodate large numbers of residential units such as the site of the former Midfield Mobile Home Park. Perhaps there should be an emphasis on tax incentives and reducing red tape for these sites in order to increase affordable housing. Speaking of Midfield, a very affordable form of housing is the mobile home. Has there been any consideration to encouraging this form of housing in appropriate locations? By favouring R-CG over other types of development are we unfairly subsidizing one type of developer over another? Blanket rezoning to R-CG is more of a planning policy to increase density in established areas as opposed to an effective policy to encourage affordable housing.
The importance of preserving our green spaces
Our parks, playgrounds, school grounds, playing fields, and other green spaces as well as the urban tree canopy are very important to the quality of life in Calgary. This becomes even more important as density and population increase. We encourage the preservation of all green spaces including ornamental parks in existing communities.
The community of Varsity is home to a diverse range of land uses and housing of all price points including attainable and affordable housing and subsidized seniors’ housing. We support efforts to increase affordable housing in our community and across the City through sound planning policies and government tax incentives and financial support. A thorough examination of what will accomplish these goals best is warranted in consultation with the development industry, community groups, affordable housing providers, other levels of government, and most importantly the citizens of Calgary.
We look forward to greater public engagement on these recommendations prior to Council approval and implementation.
Jo Anne Atkins
Director of Civic Affairs
Varsity Community Association