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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

a house in alberta.

For many newly minted Albertans it's fairly obvious that the affordability shortage/ridiculously high priced housing market here in Alberta is causing quite the challenge for many residents of Canada's wealthiest nation. But what are folks to do?

Kevin Taft's Alberta Liberals have released a policy paper detailing their plans for an Affordable Housing Strategy. Calgary Currie MLA Dave Taylor, the Official Opposition Critic for Municipal Affairs, announced the Liberals policy paper this week. In brief, the Affordable Housing Strategy recommends:

- changes to provincial regulations concerning secondary (e.g. basement) suites so that they can be quickly used as affordable housing units, while meeting strict provincial health and safety standards;
- portable housing allowances and rent supplements for low-income and fixed-income Albertans;
- giving cities and towns the authority to mandate percentages of affordable housing in new developments;
- incentives to developers to build affordable rental units, and to make home ownership possible for more Albertans;
- providing land through provincial donations and land swaps to make it more financially feasible for local groups to build new affordable housing;
- enacting a Reasonable Rent Increase law to protect tenants from rent gouging.
You can also fill out an online survey.

The Alberta NDP have also released a point pamphlet on Affordable Housing and Poverty calling for the creation of a Ministry of Housing. On Affordable Housing, the NDP are advocating that this new Ministry:
* Build 6000 affordable housing units
* Pressure the federal government to increase funding
* Commit to helping municipalities meet targets
Soon-to-be-newly-minted-Premier-designate-of-Alberta Ed Stelmach released a two-paragraph statement on affordable housing for Albertans with Special Needs during the recent Alberta PC leadership campaign. It looks like Albertans will just have to wait and see where Premier-designate Stelmach stands on this issue.

UPDATE: Stelmach has four more paragraphs on homelessness.


Anonymous said...

This is a much bigger problem in the Fort McMurray Nation and the Calgary Nation than in the Edmonton Nation with a seemingly plentiful supply of three bedroom apartments (Calgary has almost no three bedrooms)

Duncan said...

Ed has released a bit more than just the two paragraphs (which suggest the creation of a task force with a 45-day deadline listen to Albertans and produce recommendations) - his homeless strategy is:

There is a need for helping those in our communities that fall on hard times. There is also a need to provide affordable housing so that more people can find appropriate accommodation, and can afford to make other healthy choices.

The rapid growth of our economy is fueling property inflation that is felt everywhere and is causing acute social problems in many Alberta communities.

The housing market is in a temporary imbalance and an immediate provision of affordable housing will help the supply of housing catch up with demand and reduce speculation in the housing market. It is critical that we find immediate shelter for people living in our communities without a home or a place to sleep.

Government must also speed up provision of long term care and assisted living accommodation to help those seniors who are ready to move into these facilities. This may help to put more homes on the market.

Over the long term, we need to work with municipalities, the private sector and not-for-profit organizations to develop a long term plan that meets the future needs of our communities.

Anonymous said...

I will readily concede that I am no expert, but Taft's plan item of "enacting a Reasonable Rent Increase law to protect tenants from rent gouging" sounds good in theory, but I think not good in practice. Sounds like rent control, which I do not believe has ever accomplished its main objective, that of ensuring affordable housing.

The extent to which landlords can gouge renters is directly proportional to the lack of supply. Solve the imbalance - i.e. create housing to meet demand - and the gouge-problem will correct itself. In the interim, maybe a publicly available list of the "greediest landlords" could be made available to shame the worst of them ;-) As an aside, my impressionis that the worst of the rent increases are done by private landlords, not corporations or REITs - too easy to go after the big fish.

Other than that, I think elements of this plan have merit. If Stelmach's idea of creating all-party committees comes into force - and I have no reason to believe it would not - there will be an opportunity to discuss these points, select the best ones, and implement them. Will make for beter governance, if not for a raucous Question Period.

daveberta said...

Thanks, Duncan. Missed that one.

EX-NDIP said...

You think housing is expensive in Alberta . . . move to Vancouver . . . now thats expensive!
If you are looking for cheap housing . . . try McSquinties Ontario, some of those ex-manufacturing towns have some real deals . . . thanks to 13 years of Cretch/Martin missmanagement.

Anonymous said...

Ed's a nice guy. Leave him alone you big meanie!

Anonymous said...

"Stelmach has four more paragraphs on homelessness."

More like three paragraphs and a sentence...

Sean Tisdall said...

6000 units, with roughly three people per household is less than 0.6% of the population of Alberta. This is not a solution and every party knows it. The market is failing Albertans and someone must step in to increase the supply of actually affordable homes.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above critique of a "Reasonable Rent Increase law." It's a rent ceiling in disguise.

Anonymous said...

"Agree with the above critique of a "Reasonable Rent Increase law." It's a rent ceiling in disguise."

You mean a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

The Alberta NDP have been helping to put the issue of our current housing crisis on the Alberta public agenda for many months now:

The NDP's focus on this issue has caused Ed Stelmach and the Tory government to finally react.

Now that even the Tory government is reacting, here comes Dr. Taft and his Liberals, late to the table and bereft of any unique ideas (rental increase caps were proposed by Brian Mason and the NDP caucus over a month ago).

It's really quite tiresome to see the Liberal "Official Opposition" once again depend on the NDP for both direction and solutions. Graham Thompson was right when he described Kevin Taft's Liberals as useless and ineffective on CBC's "The Current" a few weeks back.

I'm hopeful we will see the resources of "Official Opposition" status given over to another party after the next provincial election. It's clear that the benefits of that status are being wasted on the Alberta Liberals.

Anonymous said...

Yep, that 4 point NDP pamphlet is really "Official Opposition" material.

The NDP may have a decent media strategy (considering they only have Edmonton to concentrate on - due to their near zero support in Calgary) but they have crapy policy and research development.

This is something the LIberals under Kevin Taft have excelled at: research and policy development. Actually coming up with real ideas, alternative, and solutions for Albertans - rather than Brian Mason's NDP cheap spin and media stunts.

Sean Tisdall said...

I've said ti before and I'll say it again. We need a public real-estate company, not a monopoly mind you, but someone who can fill that market niche for starter homes that are within reach of those with actually low incomes. If the right is as serious about creating an ownership society as they say they are, they ought to be on this like Klien on Craps.

Anonymous said...

From the Globe and Mail in August.

"The number of homeless people also seems to be on the rise. In 1992, when Calgary began its biennial count of the number of homeless in the city, there were 447 people without permanent shelter; this spring, the number reached 3,436. In Edmonton, the homeless population hovers at about 2,200.

Even smaller urban centres are now struggling with the issue. Grande Prairie in northern Alberta recently estimated that about 1,159 people -- the majority being men between the ages of 18 and 24 -- didn't have a roof over their heads.

The Tories "Alberta Advantage" at work.

Anonymous said...

B. raises a good point. Alberta's smaller cities like Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie are facing huge problems with lack of affordable housing which causes huge challenges in attracting professionals to these communities.

The massive Billion dollars of Infrastructure deficit left behind by the Klein Tories (and former Infrastructure Minister Ed Stelmach) mixed with the huge economic boom has nearly pulled Alberta's northern communities - they're hanging together by a string!

Anonymous said...

Good work to Kevin Taft, Dave Taylor, and his Liberal research team for putting this together. It's clear that Taft and the Alberta Liberals are offering a clear alternative and will bring a strong challenge against Stale Stelmach's Tories.

I for one will work hard to make sure that Kevin Taft will be Alberta's next Premier.

Chris said...

Anyone who thinks rent ceilings are great ideas should go back and re-take Econ 101.

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between a price ceiling and a price increase ceiling. The first is a flat cap on what can be charged as rent, and has been shown time and time again to fail. The new idea put forward by the NDP & now Liberal teams is that rents would only be allowed to increase by a certain amount in a given time frame.

Over the course of time, this is still going to have a similar effect to a true rent cap, that being less rental property available. However hopefully other policies can be enacted to mitigate such a drop in the supply side of the equation from occurring.

Sean Tisdall said...

They need to directly increase supply of different, yet similar housing. Subsidies will not work. So says the guy who has three years majoring in economics.

Anonymous said...

This article speaks for itself.

- Reg.

Alberta Grits are dreaming
Liberals branded in this province

By Paul Jackson
Dec. 10, 2006

I'm beginning to wonder whether provincial Liberal Leader Kevin Taft invented Technicolor or simply dreams in it.

If so, dream on, Kevin.

The ever-optimistic Taft once again sees a breakthrough for his party following the election of Ed Stelmach as leader of the Progressive Conservatives and his soon-to-be elevation to the premiership.

Before Stelmach beat out Jim Dinning -- with the help of former contenders Lyle Oberg, Mark Norris and Dave Hancock -- Taft talked about a split in the PC party that looked like it would become a chasm that would tear the 35-year-long reign of the government asunder.

On one hand, Dinning was the establishment figure who supposedly infuriated the rank and file, and on the other Ted Morton was an extreme right-winger who supposedly infuriated the moderates.

The starry-eyed Taft could see his Liberals coming right up the middle come the next election.

A few months back our editor, Licia Corbella, wisely suggested Taft might want to change the name of his party to something that doesn't leave a nasty taste in the mouth of every Alberta with an ounce of common sense and a long memory.

But Taft claimed he has a "brand name" in the word Liberal. It was instantly recognizable, he proclaimed.

Yes, but for all the wrong reasons. Three of the latest being Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

Now, newly-elected federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is about to give it some more tarnish when he gets going on his environmental hobby horse and unleashes new regulations -- taxes, disincentives -- against Alberta's energy sector.

We'll have a new National Energy Program (NEP) on our hands and the onetime unity minister will find he's sparked a wave of separatist sentiment in Alberta that will make the Quebec problem look like child's play.

Morton and his cohorts will see to that. What's more, unlike Quebec, we have the money to go our own way.

As for his "brand name" product, when Albertans haven't bought that brand in more than eight long decades, why would they buy it now?

If Proctor and Gamble had a brand that didn't move off the shelves in eight decades, do you think they would continue to manufacture it?

Not even after one decade.

Indeed, if a P&G product didn't sell -- and sell big -- in a few months it would be pulled from the shelves with alacrity.

Watch how quickly a movie is pulled from the screens after just one week when the lineups fail to materialize.

Friends, I can't recall the number of provincial Liberal leaders who have predicted their party's time has arrived.

Most of them were nonentities, likely hoping the federal Liberals would eventually give them a seat in the Senate or some other sinecure for their fruitless efforts.

The only one in the past 35 years who came remotely close was the late -- and courageous Lawrence Decore -- who looked more like a Conservative than the hapless Don Getty -- but Ralph Klein did a neat end-run around him.

Peer at history. Every time Alberta voters have become disenchanted with their provincial governments, they never seek salvation with the Liberals. After the debacle of the First World War period -- yes, you have to go back that far to see a Liberal government taking the reins -- Alberta voters went to the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), then to Social Credit, and then to Peter Lougheed's Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals were anathema -- and still are.

Take my advice, Kevin, start looking for a productive job right now because your Technicolor dreams are just nightmares to an overwhelming number of Albertans.

Anonymous said...

why anyone would listen to Paul Jackson is beyond me. The guy it practically a paleoconservative.