An ongoing series of musings on affordable housing
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Thoughts on affordable housing in Calgary and beyond
My home town, Calgary, seems to have a perpetual challenge with affordable housing. If the news can be believed, we are not alone in the developed world.
As the income inequality gap expands, more people are left in the bottom income quartile and may never be able to own their own home. In North America, home ownership is the surest road to some level of financial security in retirement, and many Canadians will not achieve this significant milestone.
As I understand it, every newly built subdivision in Calgary must have a portion of its units specified as low income housing. This seems sensible.
What I see most often is apartment style condominiums set aside for this portion of the project. There are also some townhouses and the occasional duplex; improvements to be sure.
Those units are built using standard construction methods, resulting in standard baseline cost. They are sold, at full retail price, to investor landlords. Then, the city subsidizes the rents on those living units. The result is that low income earners can rent a nice space at a reasonable cost. Sounds pretty good so far, but I don’t like it much. Developers and builders have not stepped up with real solutions. They just built what they usually build and get paid their usual price for it. City taxpayers are subsidizing the rents, which is a great deal for the renters, if not the taxpayers. Taxpayers are financing the developers and landlords. It is a sly corporate welfare program.
This program still does not move home ownership any closer to lower income families.
More to come, next post.