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Calgary accepting lease applications from non-profits at sites designated for affordable housing

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The City of Calgary opened up applications to non-profit organizations Thursday for two sites designated for affordable housing, but those living on the street still worry about solutions in the short term.

As part of its housing strategy, expression of interest applications will be accepted from qualified housing partners at city-owned plots of land located near the Fish-Creek Lacombe LRT station (14320 Sixth St. S.W.) and also adjacent to the Whitehorn LRT station (3510 34 St. N.E.) 

Tim Ward, manager of housing solutions with the City of Calgary, says the city will negotiate a lease agreement with the successful housing partners and assist with the land-use development permit process.

It's not known what types of affordable homes will be built on the site, but an ambitious goal of 18 months has been set to complete these projects. 

"We want to work with a non-profit provider that's on the ground, seeing what is needed, and so they'll be best placed to decide what kind of units makes sense, what the bedroom types are – three, four or five-bedroom units – and so that will dictate how many units are created as well," Ward said.

"When we assess any site for housing, we look at its proximity to transit, grocery stores, schools and other amenities that make great places to live. Ultimately, we're looking to residential style sites that could be good places for people."

Mayor Jyoti Gondek also made it clear that these projects align with plans to create traditional-style housing and get away from an emergency shelter style of living.

"We were looking for a way that people and families in situations of vulnerability could live in a home and what's special about this program is that it's a land lease, instead of a land purchase, so we are sending a signal that right now, we absolutely need this land for this purpose," Gondek said.

"But in future, when we have better housing options for people, it can be used for other purposes, so we continue to find ways to deliver on housing programs."

The deadline for submitting expressions of interest applications is Jan. 15, 2024.

Both the sites will be leased out for two 20-year terms with an option to purchase the sites at the end of the terms.  

CONCERNS OVER 18-MONTH TIMEFRAME TO BUILD AFFORDABLE HOMES

CTV News took to the streets Thursday to speak with Calgary's homeless population to get their thoughts on the land-lease announcement.

Chadd Woldarek has been living without a home for a year and a half himself and says he can't imagine others having to wait that long to get housed.

"The housing situation, something just really needs to be done, people need to put more of an effort because it's mostly young kids, 18-years-old and younger, and no one understands that… it's heartbreaking," he said.

"Me being a 36-year-old man, I don't care so much about me, but it's these kids that need housing, they need to learn how to deal with this, they've never had guidance and when they only have one or two options that's not enough."

Other homeless advocates like Chaz Smith, founder of Be The Change YYC, agree that quicker solutions are needed.

"We have many thousands of individuals that we are checking in on at least once every two weeks, so the housing list is about 2,000-plus individuals right now that are currently unhoused," he said.

"They have to check in once every two weeks. It's really slow moving, because folks are not moving out of supportive housing and housing programs. They simply cannot afford the current rates of rent. So if there's no flow through these programs, it sort of becomes a bit stagnant and then it's very difficult to get people housed."

Smith adds that perhaps the city could look into quicker technologies such as reusable shipping containers that are fully solar powered and cost around $40,000, or other kinds of three-dimensional printing options.

"We've seen this done in California, those 3D printers that are printing out affordable housing, that can do something like 200 a year right at a cost of one million dollars per machine," he said.

"So, I think when we look out at climate change and we're looking at creating affordable housing, that there's really cool technologies that have just come through and I would really like to see more of that technology incorporated into building public housing."

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