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'Need to strike a balance': Calgary looks to density and development to tackle its housing crisis

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As a housing crisis continues in Calgary, the city is looking to strike a balance between increasing density – both in established neighbourhoods and in new ones.

The day after councillors approved a contentious blanket rezoning item, a city committee approved four new communities that could bring more than 18,000 new homes to the city.

"We do need to build houses in Calgary in a timely manner," Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said Wednesday. "But we do need to strike a balance between inner city development and greenfield."

Seven communities were proposed at Wednesday's infrastructure and planning committee meeting, though only four were recommended by administration.

If passed by council, the four communities would eventually add 18,677 homes. It would cost $81 million in capital costs, which will need to be discussed in six months when council looks at budget adjustments.

As new communities are under consideration, one in southeast Calgary held an official groundbreaking Thursday morning.

Heartwood, which is next to the community of Seton, will see 2,000 homes developed on 200 acres of land. The plan is for the community to include single-detached homes and high-density projects over the next five years.

"On our multi-site, there's a potential for townhomes and duplexes, which, again, adds to the density of the neighbourhood and also the opportunity for that affordable mix," explained Luciano Salvador, executive vice president of Rohit Communities.

The need for more housing diversity is something city administration and housing advocates brought up many times over the 16-day public hearing over proposed blanket rezoning to try to address affordability.

The most recent market update from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) shows home prices in Canada declined slightly in April compared to the year before, but Alberta proved to be an outlier.

While prices nationally fell by 0.6 per cent, the benchmark cost of a home increased by 9.6 per cent to now sit at $577,100.

"Calgary is moving against the grain with, really, exceeding national housing price increases," said Mark Parsons, chief economist with ATB.

"What we see there is a migration story. People are coming to Alberta in droves from the rest of Canada, and that's putting extra pressure on Alberta's housing market," he said.

Parsons said more housing supply is badly needed in Calgary and Alberta with more people moving to the province.

"The good news is we are starting to see more home construction in the province. Multi-family starts have really taken off in Calgary and that bodes well. But we do need to build more as the construction industry fights to keep up with soaring demand," he added.

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