By Greg Price
Locals will have a chance to help shape the future of housing in the southern Alberta region by providing their feedback at a public meeting on Tuesday, April 24.
A housing assessment is being compiled by the Town of Taber, M.D. of Taber and Taber and District Housing Foundation, in which they want locals to be part of the discussion in its public meeting at Parkside Manor.
“We are partnering to have a housing needs assessment. Alberta Seniors and Housing has indicated that they want a housing needs assessment completed for any community that is requesting funding for either affordable housing, social housing projects, or any sort of lodge,” said Tim Janzen, CAO for Taber and District Housing.
“The M.D. and the town also wanted more information about the housing system as a whole. Are there gaps in supply versus demand? If there were directed efforts, where should they be? Who should they be directed at?”
There have been a number of consultations already done with seniors groups, health and social agencies, ministerial agencies and major employers in various communities in identifying barriers to housing.
“Are agencies seeing how their clients are being affected by inadequate or inappropriate housing?” questioned Janzen. “Are seniors and their quality of life affected by gaps in the services we provide or the building? For employers, are there barriers to investment and what issues do they face in the commuting of their employees?”
Taber and District Housing Foundation has been working with the Alberta Rural Development Network in which they have done analysis of Statistics Canada information with inflows and outflows of people. Also, how many people commute to Taber to work instead of out of Taber.
“There is also how many people who are in housing need which is defined by people who pay more than 30 per cent of their income to address their housing needs. That is an industry definition,” said Janzen. “Certainly you hear your stories of Toronto and Vancouver of how many people who are need of housing because they are way over that threshold. The thing that really stood out for me here was the percentage of people who own housing that are in that definition versus the number of people who rent. It was two to three times more people who rent that are in housing need than those who are owners. They anecdotally identified that there does seem to be a gap in housing. There are vacancies in the community, but it seems those properties may not be rented for a reason.”
Factors could be condition of the property, sizing, or affordability. These are factors that hope to be explored by feedback from the public at the April 24 meeting.
“We can do analysis, but the people’s stories and experiences that they can share with us will fill in the gaps and give a context to the statistics and analysis,” said Janzen. “That’s why it’s important to reach out to the community. The consultation is the beginning to the path we want to go down. We want homeowner, landlords, renters, employers, employees, families. We want their feedback for what they would like to see for the future for things like Clearview Lodge. Should there be construction, or more of a renovation? How do we address the needs of our residents and our future residents?”
TDH has identified gaps in the housing inventory which has included no one bedroom units or handicap accessible units.
“What has happened is our clients have changed over the 40 years of the life of our houses. The split-level, split-entry houses that were built in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are less appropriate now because we cant put a handi-cap accessible person or even someone with limited mobility into those homes,” said Janzen.
“We have a hard time addressing single people who are not seniors. The working poor make up a large part of those who are in housing need. We have people who are seasonal or who are just starting out and they don’t have the ability to get a deposit or the ability to pay a large amount of rent or a down payment. Where do they live? Sometimes the choice is the front-seat of their truck.”
To get necessary funding for future projects, Janzen emphasized there needs to be support from the community through initiatives like the public meeting.
“If we don’t have community support, we won’t have success,” said Janzen.
The provincial government has already made announcements last month of projects it is supporting. In order to be part of the consideration for next year’s budget, housing proposals need to be in by the end of June.
“It is a pretty quick turnaround, but we do want to start this process through our public meeting,” said Janzen.
The Taber and District Housing Foundation Public Meeting goes on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Parkside Manor at 4830 50th Avenue in Taber.
“It is our job to be good stewards of the province’s property in our community while meting the needs of the community. This process helps us identify those needs and do our job properly,” said Janzen.
For more information, Janzen can be contacted at TimJ@taberhsg.ca or by calling 403-223-2767 (EXT 7).