On May 27, 2019, Calgary City Council adopted a new policy allowing for the sale of up to 10 parcels of City land to non-profit affordable housing developers every two years beginning in 2019. The new policy is designed to help develop capacity among non-profit housing providers to invest in building more non-market housing in Calgary.
By helping more developers to produce affordable housing units, The City is partnering with the non-profit housing sector to help close a crucial gap: over 15,000 new affordable housing units are needed in Calgary just to meet the national average of non-market housing in urban centres. With nearly one in five households in Calgary struggling to pay for shelter costs, getting to average isn’t just a matter of civic pride, but a critical necessity for the success of thousands of Calgarians.
The innovative plan to use land identified for affordable housing to help the sector develop housing was tested between 2017 and 2018, when The City released six parcels of land to non-profit partners for development. The pilot program was successful: development projects are underway at all six sites, estimated to provide over 160 new units, over 80 of which are targeted at Calgary’s most vulnerable populations. Discounting land also helps non-profit developers leverage additional funding: The land sold through the pilot program at a combined $6.4 million discount helped the developers leverage over $30 million in funding, including private philanthropy, representing a 460% return on the City’s investment.
Based on this success, the new land sale policy regularizes and streamlines the process for future sales, allowing potential partners to plan ahead for development, and reducing the amount of “red tape” approvals needed for future sales. Most importantly, it reduces the time to complete desperately-needed new homes.
“This is a historic milestone. We’re proud of our success in engaging the non-profit sector to increase production of new housing in Calgary” says Sarah Woodgate, Director of Calgary Housing and President of Calgary Housing Company. “We have a real need for more affordable housing in this city, and we have organizations with development pipelines ready to partner with us to help fill that need. We’re very excited to make more of these developments a reality, we’re thrilled to have found a cost-effective way to do it.”
“The lack of affordable housing in Calgary is consistently among our citizens’ top concerns,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “This policy supports The City’s strategy to get our non-profit housing partners building more units more quickly. Contributing surplus City land is part of The City’s commitment to supporting shovel ready projects, along with the provincial and federal governments, to improve the lives of Calgarians.”
For more information on the need for affordable housing and The City’s response, visit calgary.ca/housing.