Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good Moves for Affordable Housing

Last night at Council we approved two new policies that we hope will help spur the private sector into helping provide more affordable housing. As I heard at the Affordable Housing Conference these types of programs used to be the domain of only the largest centres like Vancouver. With a housing crisis like there is in our community (and in Alberta as a whole) I think they will (hopefully) start to be more common in mid-sized centres like GP

The the introduction to the first policy (Policy 607) reads:

"Application may be made to the City for the waiver of any or all of the permit fees, levies and/or securities identified below with respect to Global Housing Projects, City Related Projects, Affordable Housing Projects and any other projects identified by the Public Works Committee as deserving of assistance:

Permit Fees:
Development Permits
Building Permits
Transportation (Driveway Crossings, Storm Connection Permits, Excavation Permits and Barricade Permits)
Subdivision Applications and endorsements

Transportation Levies

Paving securities
Landscaping securities
Off-Site Infrastructure securities"

In a nutshell it says that if you are developing an affordable housing project you can ask the city to waive some or all of these fees. These fees, securities and levies can add up to thousands of dollars on a project so waiving these would be a loss to the city but will make it less expensive to build new affordable housing. One concern about these types of programs is that the original builder will take the money and then a few years down the road the project is sold or turned in to a condo.... The policy has something to say about that. The applicant should have "an agreement with the City for all or part of their development to provide affordable housing for a period of not less than 15 years."

The second policy (Policy 609) provides an avenue for Density Bonusing. The goal here again is to spur on private sector development of affordable housing in the city. The concept behind it is that "The City of Grande Prairie acknowledges that every member of our community needs a place to live and that for some members of our community safe, adequate, affordable housing may be unattainable. The City supports the provision of affordable housing in all neighbourhoods, and encourages all developments to contain affordable residential units."

You might be wondering just exactly how we figure out what "affordable" housing is - thankfully the policy has a definition to spell out exactly what the City means by "Affordable":

"... housing that is housing that is offered for sale or rent with a purchase price or monthly rental price that is 80% of market value for a similar housing unit."

Check out the policies for yourself, I think they are another good step in working to provide housing of all sorts for everyone in our community.

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