You have heard me speak often about improving livability for our community. But what exactly does livability mean? When I am speaking about livability I am primarily looking at appropriate housing opportunities for all ages, stages and wages. I am speaking about how we get around our community affordably and effectively as well as long term community safety from known threats such as future flooding and fire. I am not just focussed on these three topics, but these seem to be the ones that come up in conversation with residents most often and thought would be best to provide some of my perspective on.
But first, lets talk about housing. I want to share what I have been doing in addressing housing issues for seniors, working and middle-income citizens. In 2015, council was asked to approve a business plan that had 7 priorities. These strategic priorities were in no particular order except for the first, which was councils number 1 priority: “Increase affordable housing stock”. I believe that stable, safe, accessible, income appropriate housing is key to individual, family and ultimately community success. There are people that have lived in Canmore for years and have been forced to leave; not because they do not serve a need in our workforce or are part of the social fabric of our community, but simply because they cannot find housing. It would be a terrible shame if Canmore continued to bleed itself dry of all length of local people and have to bus in staff to care for our everyday community needs. I am proud as to how hard council has worked on this priority and I personally have been the council lead on several of our new affordable housing projects. Due to the size of the priority and the town’s limited resources, the town of Canmore cannot perform this work on their own and not all at once. In cooperation with public sector partners such as Canmore Community Housing Corporation and Bow Valley Regional Housing, we have worked to bring 3 projects such as McArthur Place – 48 Units of affordable rental housing (full with a waiting list), This is Home Phase 1 – 60 units of new Level 2 Supportive Seniors Housing (November 2017) and This is Home Phase 2 – 60 units of Level 4/4D Supportive Seniors Housing (breaking ground in Spring 2018). CCHC is also moving forward on bringing on more equity housing through their 49-unit townhouse project that will be situated on the Old Day Care Lands (in progress). Due to the Town’s limited financial resources available to tackle such a large issue as housing, another initiative that was recommendation was to work with the private sector to bring on more general rental stock. We know that purpose built rental has not been built by the private sector in Canmore in more than 25 years, which has a direct affect on supply and therefore price. Two sites we rezoned for purpose built rental projects such as the project on Old Canmore Road - 90 units of purpose built rental (DP issued) and the work with Northwood REIT to bring 148 units of various types of rental housing on the Palliser Moustache Lands (in progress). The newest housing initiative that has been brought forward to council for consideration is opening up suites policy to additional neighbourhoods. In 2011, I was pleased to support a change in our Land Use Bylaw that would open single family homes with alley access in valley bottom to the possibility of suite development. As a result of this initiative 17 suites have been created through private citizenry. The concept of opening up suites in other neighbourhoods has some real merit. This kind of carefully crafted policy could bring more safe, legal accommodation into the community. This can serve as a financial household helper to families and in particular seniors. The need to age in place is more and more what I am hearing expressed to me by boomers and seniors. If this is to go forward, the town will need to be cautious to start. Concerns regarding parking and short term rentals need to be addressed. I would like to see this bylaw introduced with a more careful, phased approach, much like I have observed in other jurisdictions. I look forward to council having this discussion. There are more initiatives that will be coming forward as part of the 2017/18 budget. Some pertain to employee housing policy, the issue of short term rentals and their place in the housing landscape and a study on Visitor Accommodation. At the Bow Valley Regional Housing table there is further work around stimulating more senior’s self-contained accommodation for mixed incomes. There is a sizable waiting list for those of low to moderate income in our community. This and the suites policy has the potential to have the most amount of affect on the lives of Canmore seniors. If you would like to share your ideas or have a question for me, please drop me a line @ firstname.lastname@example.org