Monday, May 7, 2007

Affordable Housing Congress

One of the largest issues facing Grande Prairie is the need for more housing, of the affordable kind. The recent Moneysense magazine survey of the best places to live in Canada saw GP drop from 4th spot all the way down to 99th. One biggest influencing factors in this was the lack of affordable housing in our community. Ft. McMurray was number 98, one spot above GP but also obviously plagued by many of the same issues. (There was also a factual error that cost GP a point - for fun, see if you can find it)

Lack of housing is something that is affecting the whole province so it should be no surprise that there's a convention dedicated to examining the issue and sharing solutions.

Tomorrow I'm heading down to Calgary for the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association's 39th Annual Congress: The Business of Affordable Housing . I'm hoping that there will be some new ideas that I can bring back and at the very least I'll have a chance to hear how other areas are working to handle the same issues we are facing here.

Here's a summary of the workshops that I'm registered for:


Pre-Congress Workshop
CHRA’s 2007 Pre-Congress workshop will examine shelter, transitional housing, assisted housing, affordable housing and market housing projects that have used design to meet their clients’ needs. Focused largely on projects in Calgary, participants will not only receive informative presentations but much of the day will be spent visiting sites to see the building designs first-hand.


The challenge of building affordable housing in a booming economy
A hot topic, this workshop will highlight development projects that have been successful in building strong neighbourhoods for service and key workers and their families, while also promoting the city’s competitiveness. The Fort McMurray case study will demonstrate an extreme example of how to be innovative.

Understanding the Program Landscape
This session will take an in-depth look at housing programs across the country related to affordable housing and homelessness, including Provincial Housing Trusts. How do these programs contribute to a comprehensive national housing policy? What's missing? How do they fit into the larger federal strategy?

Planning and Policy Innovation for Affordable Housing
City planners and developers won’t want to miss this workshop. Focusing on real-life examples, the discussion will cover strategies for environmental sustainability, inclusionary results, defeating community resistance, and learning to market effectively through better planning policies.


Plenary Session: Revitalizing Neighbourhoods in Decline
In cities across the country there are places once alive, prosperous and thriving that are now riddled with crime, poverty and desertion. How can we turn these places of despair into places of opportunity? Find out about successful strategies from New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Canada. This session will focus on solutions to this serious problem affecting communities all across Canada.

Community Consultation: A New Approach
As with many things, good communication skills are key to success in the affordable housing sector. Learn how to more effectively speak to community and government stakeholders, approach potential donors and partners, and support the affordable housing cause.

Wednesday's pre-congress workshop is a full day event but the others typically run for about an hour and a half and like any conference there are a number of speakers and keynote addresses mixed in through out the event. Kicking off the congress is Philip Mangano, Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and later on through the week Monte Solberg the federal Minister of Human Resources and Social Development will speak. There is also a trade show which the congress website bills like this: "Unique products, services and solutions will be on display at our trade show throughout the Congress. It is the place to see what the most innovative, industry-leading specialists are up to." Interesting, I wonder what kind of companies will be there?

Anyways, there will be lots to learn. When I go to conferences I always try to go into them like a bandit - I'm looking to steal some good ideas an bring them home.

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