Addressing Calgary’s Housing Crisis Wisely

We are all aware of the housing crisis facing our City, with the number of people moving here.  Despite the increasing cost to buy or rent a home, it seems more affordable than Vancouver and Toronto. Finding the right way to provide affordable / subsidized housing is a serious challenge. We have to be careful so as not to experience the extent of problems with homelessness that cities like Vancouver and Portland have had.  If and where high-rise residential developments are permitted, we have to ensure that they are wisely located and have the desired effect of producing more affordable housing. As with other densification measures, thought must be given to the number of vehicles being added to local traffic, preserving local parks and green space and (in a world that is getting warmer) protecting our water supplies, that will have to support the growing population.

Just a few years ago, who expected that we would be in this predicament? During our last mayoralty debate, our current mayor denied that the City was selling parkland and trying to increase property tax revenue, calling such allegations lies.  

Even before the recent influx of immigrants to Calgary, we were seeing serious problems with homelessness, aggravated by drug addiction/overdose/poisoning, which increased demand on our EMS and Police services. With the people using homeless shelters having access to our rapid transit system, they were appearing in increasing numbers in and within easy walking distance of LRT stations. Our Police service is now hiring 50 more officers and trying to integrate with transit safety and social services in dealing with the increased demand on these systems.

People do have freedom to move from place to place in Canada. While it is a big country, our many newcomers are not required to reside in smaller communities and they do migrate to our cities, which aggravates the housing, homelessness, policing and social problems.

We now have our ever growing and more expensive City administration (with endorsement by many city councillors) advocating for zoning changes to increase densification, with high rise residential development to accommodate low cost housing – and increased use of rapid transit in established neighborhoods, where people had already bought homes because of the nearby space and local amenities.

The process is fueled with reports by professional people with arguments to support those who would profit from the rezoning.

It seems that the same people at the City, who advocate for widespread high density rezoning, do so despite the opinions of the residents of the affected neighborhoods, who are not provided with the reports or other information necessary to make such important decisions concerning these matters.

If the City succeeds in getting all these high rises built, while saving costs on roads, think of all the extra property tax revenue it will have, to support its growing number of employees and their pensions, while homeowners nearby suffer the consequences. What is not to like, eh? What could go wrong?

We have already seen an increase in door to door scammers and thieves looking to gain access to homes. Neighbors of mine just had a bold break-attempt at their home, in the middle of the night – while they and their kids were in their beds, sleeping.

We live in a democracy. The need to provide more housing should not mean that our elected officials can band together to harm us by changing the rules, or trying to dupe Calgarians and their CAs out of advocating for their rights and interests, while ignoring or minimizing the concerns of the people who elected them. This is a time when we should be supporting our local CAs, which have a unique role in responding to development proposals that affect people in their communities.  There are points within the development process where the City will only consider input from CAs. 

The City’s website confirms that, according to City guidelines, CAs are expected to both “promote the protection of their community’s natural resources and beauty” and “voice community concerns on issues affecting their community” .      Further, it confirms that a CA is expected to “provide information to residents through a newsletter and/or web presence and act as a unified voice on issues affecting the communityprovide input into the planning and development process and foster good planning practices.”

This is a time in our history when it is more important than ever that we make our concerns with development plans known to our CAs and help to support their efforts to advocate for us, given all the other things that they have traditionally done for our communities and need help with.

A full Public Hearing regarding Blanket Rezoning will be held on April 22 in Calgary City Hall Council Chambers.  Opportunity is offered for residents to provide opinion to the council through public appearance, phone call or written communication.