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  • Writer's pictureWard 7

Councillor Wong's Rezoning For Housing Statement



City of Calgary Public Hearing – Monday April 22, 2024 Rezoning for Housing: A solution to the Housing Crisis

 

City Agenda

On Monday April 22nd, Calgary City Council will be asked at a public hearing to approve the Calgary Housing Strategy 2024-2030 – Land Use Amendments Citywide (LOC2024-0017) and Land Use Bylaw Amendments, also know as the Rezoning for Housing recommendations from the Calgary Planning Commission to land use redesignate (i.e., rezone) all low-density residential parcels to the following:


  • R-G (from R-1(s), R-1N and R-2) that exists in newer communities.

  • R-CG (from R-C1L(s), R-C1(s), R-C1N, R-C2, and R-CGex) that exists in existing communities.

  • H-GO (from R-C1L(s), R-C1(s), R-C1N, R-C2, and R-CGex) along transition and transportation corridors (Neighbourhood Flex and Neighbourhood Connector urban form categories per Local Area Planned communities) for complex and stacked townhouse dwelling units.


These land use designations allow for the development of rowhouse and townhouse type dwelling units in addition to single-detached dwelling, semi-detached dwelling, duplexes, and suites (i.e., secondary and backyard) on a single low-density residential parcel. This citywide redesignation is also known as ‘Blanket Rezoning’ and is one of several prescribed actions in the Home is Here – Housing Strategy (Council approved September 2023) arising from recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force Report (Council received June 2023) to address the Housing Crisis.


Approving the redesignation of low-density residential parcels will:

  • Reduce barriers to the development of homes (i.e., land use applications and public hearings will no longer be required in most cases and the applicant can proceed to the Development Permit Process),

  • Provide a greater range of housing choice (i.e., rowhouse and townhouse ‘missing middle’ dwelling forms will be more permissible citywide), and

  • Demonstrate a significant step forward in meeting chronic need for affordable housing for many Calgarians – though there are serious doubts whether this initiative addresses affordability. 


What We've Heard

As the duly elected City Councillor for Ward 7 which comprises constituents across the entire political spectrum, I have dedicated myself to three things with regards to the Housing Strategy and the Rezoning for Housing action:


1. Represent the Ward 7 constituents and listen to all constituents city-wide; Be   amenable to persuasion until the final recommendations are voted on.


My office and I have received and reviewed all the inquiries, emails, and letters received from Ward 7 constituents and we have made attempts to call back when requested to hear and understand community members’ perspectives and concerns. Early in the process, before comments were due to the Calgary Planning Commission, this office hosted three town halls (and attended 2 in other wards), attended several city information sessions in communities, various community association hosted discussions, door knocked communities, met with ‘housing advocacy’ groups, and we will also be hosting a public hearing information session this Saturday (April 20th) to inform community members on the public hearing process (more information can be found here).


2. To ensure correct and up-to-date information about Housing Crisis, the Housing Affordability Task Force, the Housing Strategy, and the Rezoning for Housing is out in the public and explained and ensure the public is effectively engaged by Administration through the Public Hearing Process.


To the best of our ability (i.e. workload and time constraints considered), my office and I have shared as much information as we can about the Housing Strategy and the Blanket Rezoning with constituents in person, via technology, and in group meetings without prejudice or bias. My opinions and voting intentions have been held back to remain amenable to persuasion.I have also highlighted to Administration improvements to their information sharing, notification, and engagement sessions to ensure the public is best informed and prepared for the public hearing. This included asking for a 2-month extension to the public hearing date and a possible deferral until a plebiscite can be held.


3.  Address the Housing Crisis and Blanket Rezoning by Doing the Right Things and (most importantly) Doing Things Right:


I have heard from thousands of Calgarians, and a resounding majority of those that have reached out understand that Calgary and its residents have housing challenges including:



  • need for more supply,

  • environment and drought protection,

  • lack of up-to-date census data (population, housing, income, etc.),

  • desire for greater choice of housing variation,

  • impact to on-street and off-street parking,

  • lack of correlation between increased housing development and infrastructure capacity improvements

  • preference for home location,

  • congestion of waste & recycling bins,

  • lack of economic and market risk assessment,

  • availability and accessibility to schools and public amenities,

  • building mass, height, shadowing, and privacy,

  • and most importantly – affordable housing and housing affordability.

  • increased traffic congestion and need for 5A network,

  • loss of future public hearings for low-residential,


  • conservation of tree-canopies,

  • ineffective Development Permit engagement, 


I have also heard loud and clear that most Calgarians deplore the ‘all or not’ blanket rezoning approach as it discounts communities, property owners, residents, realtors and the marketplace, banks, financiers, and others in many ways. I have also heard about how this proposal discounts the history, heritage, character, culture, and social aspects of enduring communities. Some have asked for a process of rezoning through local area plans as a nuanced and community-defined approach to Missing Middle Housing zones and for increased densification.


Additionally, my office and I have heard from constituents that the implications of rezoning all low-density residential parcels to a base R-CG/R-G district is beyond the ‘elected-representation’ mandate of City Council as this was never presented as a future Council strategy in the previous municipal election. Many believe that Council should focus more on the most vulnerable populations; people who are unhoused (residing in encampments, in shelters, and on the street), those at high risk of losing access to safe, supportive, and affordable housing (especially women and children), and those struggling with mental health challenges, substance addiction, and chronic housing evictions.


Some Calgarians have implored Council to collaborate with the federal and provincial governments on localized housing strategies rather than a ‘cross-Canada’ nationwide approach to the housing crisis that does not respect the norms of this province and this city. These Calgarians have said we need a ‘Made in Calgary’ solution that invites senior levels of government to engage, fund, and participate in our housing tactics, not the other way around.


Does Rezoning for Housing Address the Housing Crisis?

As Blanket Rezoning is intended to reduce barriers to housing development, increase housing supply, provide a greater variation of choice, and demonstrate action toward resolving the housing crisis (including housing affordability), I believe that:


  • A more informative and consensual approach could have been taken with Calgary communities and residents.

  • A more market-based, nuanced approach could have been used to identify communities and areas suitable for rezoning.

  • A data-driven and evidence-based implementation strategy approach could have been proposed including the restoration of a municipal census and quantitative/economic/market considerations to community densification and infrastructure planning.

  • A continuous improvement, reduced time to market, process to rapid housing development could have been proposed rather than a legislative, eliminate public hearing, approach.


Housing Affordability

I believe that the ‘increased supply will lower demand and reduce housing cost’ theory may be too simplistic to be realized in Calgary as there are many other factors influencing housing costs to consider; including rising costs associated with labour, materials, financing, land, etc., in addition to the rising housing demands spurred on by senior governments’ immigration and inter-provincial migration programs. Inflationary costs and rising population pressures are overwhelming the speed and capacity to build new homes at a level that will spur a reduction in housing and rental prices.


Even if we could reduce the cost of housing, the City alone cannot fully address the affordability of housing as it relates to the personal and family incomes which are both market-dependent and legislatively influenced through income wage levels and tax credits.

Rent control and rent subsidies are also options to influence affordability but they not within a municipal mandate. 


Summary

Yes, we should rezone to allow more rowhouse and townhouse built-forms across the City as there are undoubtably populations in the city that desire these housing options, but we must carefully consider how these build forms fit within our existing communities and ensure that we establish targets for densification goals and provide support for amenities and infrastructure to match population growth and support both existing and future residents.

The City could work with community members using a collaborative process (potentially through Local Area Plans for instance) to locate areas throughout communities that can support rowhouse and townhouse developments without sacrificing the unique community characteristics that have been developed over decades to create the tapestry of Calgary communities that make this city one of the greatest in the world.


I look forward to public input and administration’s considerations of a more nuanced and varied approach to the housing crisis at the public hearing and to strategies which enhances and values stakeholder inputs and builds upon our great communities.


I hope for a greater partnership and collaboration with our regional municipalities, provincial and federal governments, and our industry partners towards a housing future that’s affordable, available, and accessible for all Calgarians.


Thank you for the honour and trust to represent the constituents of Ward 7 and all residents of Calgary


Terry Wong, Ward 7 City Councillor

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