News & Events

Support for Re-Zoning City of Calgary

Shaundra Bruvall | April 19, 2024

The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy: ‘Home is Here’ outlines 98 action items to ensure Calgarians have an affordable place to call home. One of the main tactics for addressing both the shortage of houses available to those who need them and the need for different types of housing options in the city is to increase the supply of housing.

Scarcity of housing means a lack of housing affordability – pushing groups with more income to capture the part of the market previously accessed by lower income groups, whose options are further reduced to co-habitation with friends and family or living in spaces that are unsafe or unhealthy. Scarcity of housing, for the same reasons, forces individuals into units that don’t adequately meet their mental, physical, or psychological needs. For many, including Alpha House’s clients, this doesn’t just mean being housed in a smaller unit (1-bedroom vs 2-bedroom for example), it could mean:

  • an inability to be housed in a certain community where they have connections
  • an inability to be housed with caseworker supports due to a lack of supportive housing options
  • an inability to be housed where mobility challenges are supported
  • an inability to be housed in a neighbourhood with a familiar culture

…and many other needs that may not be met due to a lack of diversity and choice around our housing options.

Therefore, on top of the affordability barrier, a second challenge that currently impacts Calgarians is an inadequate spectrum of housing options. Different types of housing options could include single-detached, rowhouse, townhouse, apartment, and semi-detached. Historic data shows single-detached housing as making up 58.3% of housing type in the city, which generally favours certain socio-economic groups. To increase the number of 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom apartments available for clients in our Community Housing program, for example, would mean supporting an increase in developments like rowhouses, townhouses, and apartments complexes. An increase in the availability of these units will lower the prices of these same units due to an increase in supply; the idea being that these price decreases will make renting/owning a rowhouse, for example, more accessible for someone who is living in smaller or shared accommodations and wants to move into a bigger space. As these individuals move into bigger spaces, the availability of 1-bedroom apartments increases thereby making them more affordable for those with lower incomes.

One of the main reasons for the constrained supply of housing and housing diversity is that the current land use districts (zones) in approximately 60% of Calgary’s residential areas do not allow for a choice of housing beyond single-detached or semi-detached homes. Allowing for diversity in housing structures within each community better suits the wide array of individual and family needs within the city, and a mixture of rental and ownership properties at market and non-market (subsidized) rates offers people at all income levels access to safe and stable housing options.

Alpha House sees firsthand the need for diversity in types of housing to meet the unique needs of the clients we serve and, as a result, we whole-heartedly support the City of Calgary proposal to “rezone all residential parcels that currently only allow for 1 or 2 units, it will be easier for property owners to add additional housing varieties across the city, without having to go through the additional steps of a Land Use change Amendment application.” This application process can take upwards of 6-months to process, maybe longer if there are other issues to be resolved with.

Rezoning will not solve all our housing-related problems, but it is a significant step forward in supporting affordability for Calgarians through increased housing supply and increased diversity in housing supply.

The City of Calgary Council’s recently passed strategy has five main points:

  • Increase the supply of housing
  • Support affordable housing providers
  • Enable the City’s housing subsidiaries to improve service delivery
  • Ensure diverse housing choice
  • Address the affordable housing needs of Indigenous people.

This strategy was adopted on September 16, 2023 with implementation plans stretched out over 2024-2030. The current public hearing about the specific rezoning amendment is April 22, 2024. If you are someone who has asked themselves how you can support reducing homelessness in the City of Calgary, we urge you to write to your councillor and tell them you support re-zoning efforts.

The City of Calgary has an excellent frequently asked questions page for those concerned about what re-zoning could look like in their neighbourhood. https://www.calgary.ca/planning/projects/rezoning-for-housing/faq.html


National Housing Day 2023

Shaundra Bruvall | November 21, 2023

National Housing day exists in Canada to remind each of us of the importance of affordable housing for all. If you are lucky enough to never have had to worry about shelter for you and your family, it can be easy to overlook the barriers faced by so many and the critical nature of having safe, affordable housing.

 

National Housing Day aims to provide more advocacy for people experiencing homelessness within Canada, and serves to remind us that there is much to be done to make sure that all Canadians have access to affordable and safe housing. Current estimations suggest 235,000 Canadians may experience homelessness in a given year. Many people experiencing homelessness have multiple barriers to gaining affordable housing, such as lack of consistent or adequate income, mental or physical health issues or substance use addictions.

 

It has become more and more clear over the past decade that Canada is facing a housing crisis. Growing costs of housing and a strong demand with insufficient supply has led many Canadians, unable to afford market prices, to become entrenched in unsafe or inadequate housing units, or to become unhoused. In Calgary, the average house price is $553,300, and market prices for apartment rentals are currently averaging $2,178. These prices are often unaffordable for so many and, as a result, it becomes more and more likely that individuals, couples, and families will be forced to stay in unsafe housing situations, places that don’t meet their needs, or risk becoming unhoused.

 

Alpha House Society works alongside other homeless-serving and housing agencies in Calgary and within the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Housing Strategist programs to transition people experiencing homelessness into housing. Alpha House offers two different types of housing programs: permanent supportive housing (PSH) sometimes called Place-Based Housing (PBH) and Community (Scattered-Site) housing. Alpha House’s PSH program is made up of seven different apartment buildings throughout Calgary. Each offers individual case management and goal setting, as well as group programming case, supporting each resident to improve their circumstances by learning new skills, reducing harm related to substance use, and establishing and creating community for everyone.

 

Alpha House’s Community Housing program supports clients to transition towards independent living. Clients in the program are housed within the community with their own units and sign their own leases. Caseworkers support clients with intensive case management to help with basic short and long-term needs and reduce the likelihood of re-entry into homelessness.

 

There is a vast array of needs when it comes to housing and, to ensure stability, it is critical to meet those needs with a spectrum of housing options; matching needs with services. In the homeless-serving sector, housing options are critical to reducing barriers for individuals who are rough-sleeping, struggling with mental or physical health challenges, and dealing with substance use addiction

 

Alpha House believes foremost in a Housing First approach to solving homelessness –  without barriers and without exception – providing housing regardless of an individual’s personal circumstances and, as an agency, our continuum of programs work to meet individuals where they are at, determine what type of housing would suit them best, and support them in transition.

 

National Housing Day exists to remind Canadians that every person deserves a home, four walls and a roof. Many Calgarians are feeling firsthand the impacts of the housing crisis. aware of how the housing crisis. The City of Calgary Council recently passed a strategy with the goal of ensuring every Calgarian has an affordable place to call home. This strategy has five main points: 1) increase the supply of housing, 2) support affordable housing providers, 3) enable the City’s housing subsidiaries to improve service delivery, 4) ensure diverse housing choice, and 5) address the affordable housing needs of Indigenous people. This strategy was adopted on September 16, 2023 with implementation plans stretched out over 2024-2030.

 

Federally, Canada has also implemented a national housing strategy which includes investing 40 billion dollars into different housing strategy targets, such as a 50% reduction of emergency shelter stays by those chronically homeless, 385,000 community housing units protected, and another 50,000 units created through an expansion of community housing. Alpha House knows the importance of safe, supportive, and affordable housing and we stand with all agencies, government bodies, and developers who are working towards Housing for All.

 

Written by Alpha House Staff (Amy Sutherland)

 

Government of Canada. (2017). Canada’s National Housing Strategy: A place to call home. https://eppdscrmssa01.blob.core.windows.net/cmhcprodcontainer/sf/project/ placetocallhome/pdfs/canada-national-housing-strategy.pdf

 

City of Calgary. (2023). Home is here, the City of Calgary’s housing strategy 2024-2030. https://www.calgary.ca/communities/housing-in-calgary/housing- strategy.html#:~:text=Home%20is%20Here%2C%20The%20City%20of%20Calgary’s%20 Housing%20Strategy%20was,office%20conversions%20to%20support%20students

 

Alpha House. (2023). Housing Program. https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-we-help/housing- program/

 

Homeless Hub. (2021) How many people are homeless in Canada. https://www.homelesshub.ca/ about-homelessness/homelessness-101/how-many-people-are-homeless-canada

 

Average house price in Calgary. (2023, October 16) The Canadian Magazine of Immigration. https://canadaimmigrants.com/average-house-price-in-calgary/ #:~:text=The%20average%20house%20price%20in,over%20year%20in%20September%2 02023


Housing Outreach

Shaundra Bruvall | March 17, 2022

Housing Outreach

Alpha House’s newest program is no longer a pilot project. Thanks to funding through the Calgary Homeless Foundation, our Housing Outreach Program has become an ongoing part of Alpha House’s services.

Comprised of two outreach resource workers, the Housing Outreach Program is focused on diverting people away from the homeless-serving sector by providing immediate, temporary supports to prevent entry into homelessness.

In an ideal world, of course, everyone would be diverted from the homeless-serving sector through prevention of the factors that lead to homelessness. In reality, many of the people that Alpha House serves, particularly in our Housing Programs (both Community Housing and Place-Based Supportive Housing), will require some measure of support for the remainder of their lives. These supports are critical for quality of life and are a more dignified, cost-effective response to homelessness than shelters, hospital beds, courtrooms, or jail cells. The purpose of the Housing Outreach Program is to capture infrequent shelter users or individuals who can return to stability quickly with short-term assistance.

The team (currently composed of Alpha House staff members Christina G and Damon R, pictured above) works with roughly 30 clients a month (between 3-4/week) and provides support with Alberta Works applications, ID obtainment, bank account setup, food bank hamper referrals, resource and service connections for medical, employment, and pet supports, affordable housing locating, and damage deposit/first month’s rent provision (among other supports).

“It is really cool to watch someone continue on an upward path after you’ve helped them. They just needed that little bit of support to move forward.”

– Damon

Individually, each of these supports might seem minimal but sometimes even a small bit of help can be a lifeline for someone who is struggling. We are excited to have this program available for individuals who need a little extra support to get back on their feet.

One example of a client the team was able to support back into stability was a guy whose apartment had recently flooded. He had lost all of his possessions in the flood including all of his work gear. As he worked in construction, this was a detrimental loss. He was unable to take on new jobs, had nowhere to live, and no possessions. A series of misfortunes and this individual was suddenly set on an extremely difficult path.

Christina and Damon were able to get this client setup with work gear, a new place to live, and a few belongings to help get him settled into his new home.

“Sometimes you end up in a really tough situation for whatever reason(s) and you end up stuck because there are so many barriers. It can be really difficult for one person to navigate that and sometimes having that advocacy piece [the housing outreach program] makes all the difference.”

– Christina

Referrals for the Housing Outreach Program come from Alpha House’s other outreach programs: DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) and Encampment as well as our Detox program. But referrals can also come from our partners like the Sheldon Chumir, the Mustard Seed’s Outreach team, The Alex’s Outreach Team, word of mouth, Calgary Bylaw, and Calgary Transit.

Unsurprisingly, a lack of affordable housing remains a huge barrier, which is why relationships with property owners is an important part of this work to ensure clients have options. If we make a good connection and house someone with a certain property owner, they are more likely to connect with us when they have another opening or if other property owners they know have openings.

If you are or know of a property owner who would like to partner with Alpha House, please get in touch with our Housing Outreach program at [email protected]