Councillor Survey Question 6

Everyone says they support affordable housing, but what does that term mean for you? Do you think the City should be subsidizing housing for lower-income residents? Or focused on keeping the cost of all housing from getting out of control? Or perhaps some combination of the two? If so, how?

Rajko Dodic:

Affordable housing is defined in so many ways. To me, affordable housing would be that housing that someone earning minimum wage would be able to actually pay for from their income. The reality is that that is unlikely. The City has no legal mechanism to control housing costs as that is market driven; we couldn't for example, pass a by-law that says no home could cost more than X amount of dollars. There are Provincial monies administered through the City to assist with housing affordability and I support that.


Nick Paladino:

It’s true that everyone’s view of affordable housing is different. To me, I would say that smaller, compact homes or duplexes fit my definition of affordable housing. Something along the lines of what is currently being developed by Lethbridge Housing Authority behind/east of Lowes. Others feel that compact apartment suites are something the City should encourage, perhaps in the downtown area. I like the suggestion of a combination of both subsidies and keeping an eye on cost. Keep in mind that the home builders will only build what the public demands so its hard to control cost if the demand is for higher-end homes, for example.


Bill Ginther:

Affordable housing to me is simply defined by says that we need to developers m/create housing that people can actually afford and that it should never account for more than 25% of a families income. Definitely a combination of the two.


Mark Campbell:

We must continue to create partnerships with all levels of governments in the hopes of getting funding to build housing for those who need it and hopefully keeping their costs down. We may look at a combination of city and private investment. We also need to have a very holistic look at what we can do with existing structures that can be turned into housing programs. That can be controversial but we’ve got to get creative.


Ryan Wolfe:

The city has little ability to control "the cost of all housing". Again, we do not control the free market economy of Canada. As a capitalist society, we accept that supply and demand decide on pricing for the general population. If someone wants to pay me 700k for my house....then that has nothing to do with council. As far as affordable housing is concerned. We do need to consider the needs of those who suffer and those that need a hand up. I have already begun to study cheaper and much more efficient models of subsidized housing for these who need it. Even Medicine Hat, the city that has conquered "homelessness" charges their consumers rent. It is not free. I look forward to working more on this challenge.


Kelti Baird:

Affordable housing means having a variety of housing options (condos, apartments, town or row houses, and single-family dwellings) that are affordable for all manner of people interested in living in Lethbridge. I do think the City has an opportunity to subsidize safe supportive housing for our unhoused/homeless population to help address issues of social wellbeing in our community. My focus is to break the poverty cycle prevalent in Lethbridge and ensure a vibrant and accessible community for everyone. Disincentivizing property hoarding by the landlord class will be important to the stabilization of the housing market in Lethbridge, though our real-estate market here is typically not too volatile. Other jurisdictions around the world are starting to look at housing affordability and accessibility as a public health issue that should be addressed in the broader community.


Tim VanderBeek:

Affordable housing is housing that does not take the majority of a person’s monthly income. People should be able to have money left over for essentials like food, clothing and transportation. I think that there should be a combination of the two. Unfortunately, especially with Covid, many people are not able to afford housing and it will cost more if they end up on the street. We also need to be cognizant that all increases in taxes have effects on those with fixed incomes and even the population at large.


Ryan Lepko:

I believe having a pay to own system would be more attractive and beneficial. There is something more rewarding about making payments to something that you will own in the end versus not owning. That is my own thoughts and feel we should be going in that direction.


Davey Wiggers:

Affordable housing as described in the question is a bit of a misnomer. The city doesn’t subsidize housing for low-income residents. The city is tasked with distribution of provincial and federal funds as it relates to housing, but there is no contribution from property taxes. There’s a case to be made that the funds that the city distributes aren’t necessarily appropriated properly, but that’s not really this question. As far as cost of all housing, that’s set by market forces, not the city.


Dale Leier:

Affordable housing is one of the many essential functions of a municipality as it epitomizes the efficiency and effectiveness of our community. Ensuring a sufficient supply of safe and economical housing is necessary for the health of the community. Without it, workers and their families will be unable to live, work and play. In turn, this puts our businesses and local economy at risk. This city has become addicted to development and if it all stopped tomorrow, we would be in tough straights. The Lethbridge Land, a crown corporation owned and operated by the City of Lethbridge, buys up blocks of raw land and re-sells it to developers in to make a profit. These profits are used to fund other municipal activities. At the same time, however, it drives up the cost of lots and makes housing more expensive and, by extension, less affordable. Housing for lower-income residents can be addressed through land grants to developers for this purpose, and by reducing delays and costs for permitting so that builders can lower their costs.


Belinda Crowson:

The term affordable housing is clearly defined in Canada as housing that costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income. There are many ways that a community such as Lethbridge supports affordable housing. This is through some of the planning and development work (rezoning work, etc.) being done to permit and encourage secondary suites, basement suites and other types of housing. It is also through a comprehensive look at all city fees (taxes, utilities, fees, and more) that needs to be done to help ensure more Lethbridge residents can afford their housing. And more (more details can be found in changes to the recent MDP and in proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw). Social housing is housing that is subsidized by a level of government. Social housing is required for those who most need it and, yes, does include rental subsidies. Housing is a complex issue and needs to involve many partners (private and public) as well as many different techniques. The two you have mentioned need to be considered. But so, too, do programs that support landlords and encourage them to rent to people who require social housing. Some programs suggested includes volunteer or low-cost support to landlords to repair any potential damage that may occur to their properties. It also includes education to landlords and renters on landlord/tenant issues. It involves helping to connect people to housing supports and ensuring staff are both trained and available to do this work. As noted, this is a complex issue and we need to look at, and employ, many different tools as we work to solve it.


Harold Pereverseff

Affordable housing can come in many forms, some communities have adopted sub-divisions where the focus is multi-family housing and even "small homes initiatives' '. There are a number of focus areas that may be considered. The City has to take a realistic approach in any subsidization for housing, qualifying criteria has to be fair and equitable. There has to be a responsibility aspect determined by need and outcome in all situations. It would be a challenge for the City to attempt to keep the cost of housing from getting out of control as this factor is driven by market economy. With the University and College within our City, the factors affecting cost of housing will fluctuate, traditionally Lethbridge has been a steady market economy with little unexpected increases in housing costs.


Shelby MacLeod:

Often people refer or says they support affordable housing, they mean affordable to them and their pay cheque, but for me it means housing that is safe and affordable for a working person or family on minimum wage. Often affordable or cheap rent housing has been in unsafe neighbourhoods, or versions of communal living - which may not be safe, let alone with personal privacy. A room with a door and a bathroom is a minimum standard for safe affordable housing. Under the provinces housing formula, rent geared to income also helps with affordability, where the renter pays 30% of the their income on rent, and the province pays the difference, similar to rent subsidy formula. I understand that the City has a small rent support fund, that I feel must be used in emergencies and in collaboration with LHA. Lethbridge Housing is the authorized provincial agent - contracted to support housing for lower-income adults, families or seniors. We also have provincial taxpayer support residents in congregated housing styles like Green Acres, Good Samaritan and similar agencies or care homes? The city has a role in land development for housing development, that is designated for subsidizing housing builds. Other than that, I am not sure what the city can do to contain rental cost or keep housing cost from rising. Rent controls are not a municipal jurisdiction, and would take provincial legislation as renting or landlord rule are under private sector business. The city should not be in the business of owning and maintaining housing, if they are going to contain you taxation costs. An apartment building or complex is a business and if the business does not pay property taxes, those missing tax payment can not helps reduce the tax load on the home owner.


Jenn Schmidt-Rempel:

By definition, affordable housing is housing that costs less than 30% of pre-tax income. Since the market sets housing prices, affordability can be partially addressed through reductions in costs associated with planning, zoning, permitting, infrastructure requirements, and dwelling construction. The City can look at how these factors contribute to housing costs. As with all my answers here, there is no one approach to any of the problems facing us. There may be projects that require the City to advocate to the province for funding, but other projects that may require grants or incentives to spur investment. Lobbying the federal government on mortgage rules is another option. Council can help increase access to housing, including the idea of appropriate housing, by ensuring that it’s addressing all needs and costs across the housing continuum.


Darcy Logan:

If the city is involved, this is more of a zoning and tax question. I do support low-cost zoning (in consultation with the community) and, potentially, tax incentivization to encourage it.


Robin Walker:

I agree with the principle of affordable housing and that the City does play a role. I think the ideal approach could be one that combines a focus on keeping housing costs from getting out of control while subsidizing those who need help to get out of a vulnerable position. One way to address this is through zoning and development. Core areas of our City should include higher density residential (re)development, we should be careful of the costs of urban sprawl, and we should consider more innovative approaches to housing, like tiny home communities, mixed-use developments, and innovative building materials and practices.

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