Bill Smith: I believe we have a bit of an imbalance in how we’ve gone about our planning and development, in that we’ve focused more on the high density, the transit-oriented development areas, and have limited the supply and the ability for the suburban areas to grow with single-family homes. We need to push that balance back over towards the suburban homes, because I do know that the builders are saying that there is a demand for that.
CREB®Now: What is your opinion on a potential land transfer tax for Calgary and/or all of Alberta?
Bill Smith: I’m never in favour of new taxes. If it is put on by the provincial government, we will do all that we can as a municipality to fight for our share of that revenue, but otherwise, I wouldn’t foresee it in any of my plans going forward.
CREB®Now: What are your thoughts on the future of energy-efficient homes and how they could potentially be classified?
Bill Smith: I’m all for ensuring that we keep as small a carbon footprint as possible. The challenge with items like this is always how much does that download onto the homeowner and does it make sense in the form that might be proposed? We have to take a careful look at that. Again, if it’s provincially legislated, we don’t have much choice on it, but there has to be a cost-benefit factor that comes into consideration.
CREB®Now: What is your preferred approach to the issue of affordable housing in Calgary?
Bill Smith: Over the next while, what I’d like to be able to do is bring together the different groups along the spectrum, and I know there are some movements by those groups to do that, so that we could firstly help to move individuals through the spectrum from homelessness into an attainable home. And, hopefully, the end goal for the folks we can help would be to get them into a home they can afford. I believe mobile homes are part of that continuum, and we need to make sure there is a supply of those in this city.
CREB®Now: What are some infrastructure projects or improvements you would like to see in the next 25 years?
Bill Smith: We have one in the books for the Green Line, which I think is critical we move forward with public transit. The Green Line, though, needs to have a little bit of a revisit in terms of priorities. To me, it doesn’t make sense that we’re building really the middle of the line without building either the north route or the south route in any meaningful way . . . The priority should be that we move people and that we help people to move and I think we’ve done a pretty poor job of that to date. I would set people-moving as my priority on that side of the infrastructure.
CREB®Now: What is your position on the current secondary suite approval process? How could it be improved?
Bill Smith: I have to think that somewhere along the way, we have to sit down with the councillors and figure out a way where we can have the majority of those applications heard by the department, so that this doesn’t take up council time. My understanding from the results of the applications is that, generally, council makes the right decision on them. I would think that they should be able to give the criteria to administration to assist with that. I think I understood it to be about 20 per cent of council’s time is spent on these items right now. But it’s also a bigger piece than that. Going back to that continuum of home attainability and affordability, right now we hold, I think, about 9,500 affordable housing units in our inventory and a great deal of them are uninhabitable. I don’t think we’re very good at managing that side of it, and at this point in time, there are about 4,000 people that are on the waiting list to get affordable housing with only about 88 or 100 units coming online this year.
CREB®Now: With federal legalization of marijuana on the horizon, some homeowners have concerns with the location of potential retailers and with other Calgarians growing marijuana in their homes. How would you manage these concerns?
Bill Smith: Because the feds will mandate it, first thing I’m going to turn to them and say is, “I want you to pick up some of the costs, both on the enforcement side and on the regulation side.” Whether we can get them to do that or not, I don’t know. But I will very forcefully ask for that support. The thing about growing marijuana in your home, I don’t know there’s much we can do about that, providing people are following whatever the regulations are put in place. It would seem to me, just from the 30,000-foot level and looking at this, there will probably be a lot of similarities between the regulation of the retailers similar to what we do with liquor stores now.
CREB®Now: Can you elaborate on your preferred location for a new Calgary Flames arena and how you would propose the City develop the surrounding area to best meet the needs of Calgarians?
Bill Smith: I would like to see an arena done, but we have to be very careful about how it’s structured, and if there is a cost to the City, what that looks to be. There are some real opportunities in terms of building a district that has maybe some restaurants and becomes sort of a destination, with condominiums and offices and hotels attached. If we can create that type of district, where we can increase the tax revenue to offset the costs of something like that, then I think it makes sense . . . I don’t know which location is right, now . . . There are a lot of things that have to go into this, but I would be committed to getting a deal that makes sense for Calgarians, because I would sure like to see the Flames stay here.