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.