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Feds give Calgary $228M for housing

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Canada's federal government is providing the City of Calgary with $228 million from its Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

The HAF is focused on creating higher-density housing, student housing, homes near transit and affordable housing.

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the agreement with Calgary will fast-track the development of 6,800 housing units over the next three years and spur the construction of more than 35,000 homes over the next decade.

"This is a major, major advance when it comes to housing policy in the city of Calgary, and I would dare say it sets an example for the rest of the country to follow,” Fraser said.

"With federal funding and federal leadership, we are changing how cities let housing get built in their municipalities."

Tuesday’s funding announcement comes after a contentious debate at city council in September over Calgary's new housing strategy. The plan calls for blanket rezoning to R-CG in Calgary, which would allow for a wider range of housing types in every neighbourhood.

Currently, more than 60 per cent of residential properties in Calgary are zoned to only allow single-family homes as a default.

After first being shot down in a first vote, the plan came back to council for an emergency weekend public hearing in September, after which it was passed.

That second vote came after Fraser threatened a halt to the federal funding if the plan did not pass.

In a letter to Calgary following the first vote was shot down, Fraser said that if Calgary council did not legalize new missing-middle zoning designations, its Housing Accelerators Fund application would not be approved.

“It’s these kinds of things that are really systemic reforms around zoning and permitting that are going to allow (the city) to see a rapid increase in construction as a result of changes they’re making,” said Fraser.

“Not just to fund projects, but make it easier for builders to build projects that will provide more homes to Calgarians.”

Missing-middle housing refers to buildings such as duplexes, row houses, and mid-rise apartments which can increase density. Such rezoning changes would re-designate portions of land to allow those types of buildings.

Fraser said the federal government will give Calgary the money in multiple payments to ensure commitments are met.

“Twenty-five per cent of the funds is received upfront each year for the three years that follow and an additional 25 per cent will flow to the City of Calgary provided that they meet the milestones outlined in the agreement,” said Fraser.

He did not specify what milestones he expected Calgary to meet but said he is confident the full funding will flow to the city

“My full expectation, with all the deals signed to date, is that we’re going to be able to achieve the milestones,” said Fraser.

“We’re building with more density, not necessarily taking on more projects.”

Speaking at the announcement Tuesday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she expects 3,000 new units to be created by office space conversions in alignment with Calgary’s Downtown Strategy.

“We are able to streamline our approvals processes, and we are able to provide initiatives for secondary suites,” said Gondek, “as well as more non-market and market homes in our downtown.“

The HAF is also expected to help fund the creation of 400 housing units on city-owned land in proximity to transit stations.

Noticeably absent from Tuesday’s press conference was any representation from the provincial government.

In a written statement to CTV News, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she is pleased with the $228 million given to Calgary, but makes it clear she is not happy the province was left out.

“Work is underway to review Quebec law, Bill M-30, which requires the federal government to negotiate and cooperate with the province on delivering funding for cities in line with provincial priorities and programs,” Smith said in the statement.

“This arrangement doesn’t seem to be hurting Quebec’s ability to secure federal investment dollars for their cities - surely minister Chrystia Freeland isn’t saying that provinces asking for the constitution to be respected should be penalized.”

Mayor Gondek noted the provincial absence in the funding announcement, saying its input was not needed.

"I believe — given that (the province) has a department dedicated to cutting red tape — it would be unwise to somehow insert another player into the mix when we are receiving funds that we desperately need,” said Gondek.

“Today is a good example of how two governments working together is great, and three would be even better."

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