For many, owning a home is a dream that can take years of saving to accomplish. For many lower income Calgarians, those dreams come true thanks to the many affordable housing options available in the city.
In 2011, a survey of non-market rental housing in Calgary revealed 31 providers of non-market housing in Calgary. They manage 584 projects that provide 11,759 units of subsidized housing for low-income Calgarians as well as 465 Calgary Housing Company Projects.
For Calgary’s senior population, more options have become available thanks to the Lions Village on the corner of Memorial Drive and Crowchild Trail. The 90-unit affordable housing complex was created to help meet the needs of low-income seniors in Calgary and will double as a social and activity hub for seniors in surrounding communities.
The building was possible in part thanks to a $10.7 million joint investment by the governments of Alberta and Canada. A grand opening launch for Lions Village was held on Sept. 10 and attended by representatives from both the federal and provincial government including Diane Ablonczy Minister of State of Foreign Affairs and MP for Calgary Nose-Hill.
“It’s wonderful when people get together and help build their community, help support their community and help everyone in their community be better off and the Lions Club has done that,” she said. “I was seniors minister for awhile and saw quite a few seniors complexes and I tell you there’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into them.”
Of the developments 90 suites, 81 are affordable housing units and nine will be provided as homeless units. The facility includes social gathering rooms on all floors and rental rates will be at least 10 to 20 per cent below market rate.
“Developing innovative solutions to housing challenges is important as housing is both an economic and social issue,” said Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths. “Alberta continues to close the gap in demand for housing by investing wisely with partners and each year more housing comes on stream providing a better quality of life for thousands of Albertans in need.”
The Lions Village building comes on the heels of another affordable housing unit for seniors — Victoria Gardens — in the community of Montgomery, which includes 34 units.
Affordable housing options for working class Calgarians include avenues such as the Peak Home Ownership Program and the Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation. Peak — short for public, as in public sector workers; essential, as in essential workers like teachers and health care workers and key, as in key workers needed for Calgary like artists and trades people — assists families in achieving a home of their own with eligibility according to income, household size, pre-approval and new home owner workshops. Young business owner Amber Craig was one of many to take advantage of the Peak Program and has been in her new home for just over a year.
“I went with Peak for two reasons: firstly, they were recommended to me by a friend, and they are also partnered with the Government of Alberta, and that put a fair bit of legitimacy into the mix for me,” she said. “I was definitely happy with the entire process. Everyone I dealt with from the representative at Trico Homes to the mortgage broker at RBC, were helpful and friendly. The process was easy and educational and I found a lot of value in it.”
The non-profit Attainable Homes helps residents with incomes less than $80,000 get a home of their own through partnering with local builders, gifting potential owners the down-payment and re-investing a portion of your homes appreciation back into the program to help other Calgarians buy a home of their own.
In 2010, the CREB® Charitable Foundation contributed $500,000 toward the Brenda Strafford housing initiative. The project, completed in December 2010 provides second stage shelter services for six months and affordable housing for up to two years for women and children affected by domestic violence.
In 2008, the Calgary Homeless Foundation introduced the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in the City. The plan includes a commitment to end homelessness by 2018 while building a system of care focused on ending homelessness, attention to the unique needs of vulnerable subpopulations, emphasis on prevention and reform of public systems and a housing strategy that concentrates limited resources on those greatest in need.
Heading into its fifth year, the Plan has housed about 3,775 people with goals of housing a further 700 or more in 2012/2013 as well as expanding the Homeless Management Information System deployment in emergency shelters, developing an HMIS benchmark to asses current rates of recidivism for individuals in the shelter system and improving data quality from funded programs to more accurately assess recidivism.