April 16th, 2024

Housing minister pledges cash for more Alberta homes, urges provinces to get creative

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press on March 5, 2024.

Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser responds to a question during a weekly news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 in Ottawa. Fraser announced almost $25 million Tuesday to build homes in Alberta while urging provincial governments to get creative about getting even more off the ground. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

AIRDRIE, Alta. – Canada’s housing minister announced Tuesday almost $25 million to build homes in Alberta, while urging provincial governments to get creative about getting even more off the ground.

“We’re living in a housing crisis across the country,” Sean Fraser told reporters in Airdrie, a city just north of Calgary.

“Provincial governments “¦ actually have the legislative authority to make some of the changes (that) we’re now incentivizing through the federal spending power.

“If the provincial government wanted to see these kind of changes, they could work with municipalities to establish them.”

Fraser announced $24.8 million to fast track the building of more than 900 homes over the next three years in Airdrie.

The money comes from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund, which provides funding to help communities find innovative ways to eliminate barriers to building homes.

Airdrie is committing to streamlining zoning bylaws to expedite medium-density homes, such as townhouses and multiplexes across the city.

Airdrie will also encourage more secondary suites by reducing parking restrictions and lot sizes.

Fraser said 179 agreements under the Housing Accelerator Fund have been signed across the country.

There were no provincial government officials at the announcement.

Ottawa and Alberta have been at loggerheads over the fund.

Alberta Social Services Minister Jason Nixon has said Alberta is not getting the funding equivalent to its 12 per cent of the population and that the money is disproportionately flowing to Edmonton and Calgary at the expense of medium-sized cities.

Fraser has said the goal of the program is innovation, not per capita funding, and Alberta is receiving just a shade under 12 per cent anyway at $450 million.

He also said big cities and small rural communities are all benefiting under the program.

Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown said with more workers and families coming in droves, the squeeze is on for housing.

“We’ve brought a lot of new residents to our community, and it’s been amazing. But it’s put pressure on a lot of our infrastructure,” said Brown.

In Red Deer, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the United Conservative Party government is failing to fund for growth in Alberta communities, particularly with sewer, water and road construction.

“The UCP budget’s lack of municipal infrastructure funding will leave cities like Red Deer so strained that they will have no choice but to increase property taxes even further,” said Notley.

“This will worsen an already debilitating affordability crisis.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

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