Calgary’s Housing Crisis: New Communities Offer a Path Forward.
By Iain Stewart, CEO of Genesis Land Development Corp. (TSX: GDC)
As published in the Calgary Herald September 23, 2023:
Calgary City Council should be congratulated for approving changes that tackle the housing affordability crisis. We look forward to council and administration moving forward by implementing their housing affordability plan, especially expediting the upfront approval and permitting process. Streamlining new community approvals and permit applications will get homes to market faster, increase housing starts and help the city achieve its goals.
It was refreshing to hear Mayor Jyoti Gondek recognize the crucial role market-supply housing plays in maintaining housing affordability, both by increasing supply and by adding diversity to the housing stock.
“As a city, we have spent a very long time focused on subsidized housing only, and then we slowly crept into looking at the impacts of homelessness, all while we didn’t really even focus at all on market-based housing,” she said after Council approved the Home is Here plan, following three straight days of debate and public feedback. “This housing strategy is finally getting us caught up to where we need to be.”
While much of last week’s debate centred around the recommendation for blanket upzoning to allow for higher density in existing neighbourhoods, only greenfield developments can deliver the sheer number of new homes needed to make a significant difference.
Today’s new communities have higher densities than older communities, including most inner-city neighbourhoods. Market-supplied housing is everything from starter homes to laneway houses, above-garage suites, multifamily homes, single family homes and seniors housing, all of which allow people to grow, have a family and age in place. New amenities such as parks, trails and recreation facilities, as well as schools and neighbourhood-based shopping and services, are standard in all new communities.
Complete communities provide a diversity of housing to meet identified community needs and accommodate people at all stages of life. While adding density to established communities may lead to ad-hoc or random development, new communities are built according to a master plan with higher density housing placed where it makes the most sense, typically near transit and within walking distance of commercial services. The new communities of today are NOT swaths of cookie-cutter homes. They are safe, welcoming, vibrant, and complete, where people from all walks of life can live, work, learn and play throughout their lifetimes.
Home buyers pay a significant price for regulatory red tape. In its latest report, “Buyers Beware: The Cost of Barriers to Building Housing in Canadian Cities, the C.D. Howe Institute attributes excess costs to factors directly under municipal government’s control, including “upfront development charges, a lack of land for development for regulatory reasons, a lack of available transportation options to new land sites, or potential other factors that restrict competition among developers and builders.”
An easy win for Calgary would be reforming the lengthy development permit process, which must be followed to build affordable rowhouses and townhouses but not single-family homes. This process adds time, costs and uncertainty, discouraging the development of market-based solutions which are in demand and more affordable.
Genesis will launch three new communities in Calgary this year with a diverse range of housing options to serve all Calgarians. We are proud to be part of the solution, delivering environmentally sensitive new-community growth and adding to the level of supply needed to make a significant difference.