Mark Turnbull on affordable housing

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It’s a familiar story in St. Albert.

Young people strike out on their own to find something appropriate to their needs, including price range, and they end up moving elsewhere in the Capital Region.

Young families looking for starter homes struggle to find something affordable in St. Albert. Some stay anyways, but others move away to places like Edmonton and Spruce Grove or Beaumont, where young populations are thriving.

Seniors want to downsize from the home where they raised families in to something more manageable. Are there options in St. Albert that meet those citizens’ needs?

Recently the previously No. 1 ranked place to live in Canada by MoneySense fell to fourth place. Part of the reason for St. Albert’s decline in the rankings? High housing prices generated by Alberta’s good economy.

“That does push prices up and makes it less affordable compared to other cities on our list,” said Sarah Efron, acting editor-in-chief of the magazine.

Dick Tansey, chair of the St. Albert Seniors United Now group told council back in March that affordable housing for seniors is badly needed in the city, urging council to approve a housing diversity action plan.

“The affordable housing situation in St. Albert is becoming more and more critical,” Tansey told council.

The housing diversity report highlighted a need for more housing options here in St. Albert. The report said there’s a need for more types of housing, some lower-price point homes and more rental options.

Median housing prices of single-family residential homes exceed the prices in other communities by more than $100,000, the report said.

This past fall, two young parents shared their struggle to find a starter home in St. Albert where they grew up. René Busque and his wife wanted to upsize from their condo but took a lot of time to find something in their price range, especially compared to what they could get in Edmonton.

“There were pretty substantial gaps,” Busque said in October.

It’s a consistently mentioned issue, so the Gazette asked the byelection candidates what they think can be done to increase the range of housing available.

Question:

How do you think St. Albert can develop a wider range of housing choices in order to keep young people and others from moving away?

Mark Turnbull

St. Albert can develop a range of housing products with a generational mix for a diverse range of incomes. To create affordable housing begins with changes to land use for new, existing and city land categories. For example, smaller new lot sizes provide affordable land cost. Changing city-owned land use allows development of housing for seniors. Finally changing existing land use to allow secondary above grade suites for renters.

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St. Albert Gazette

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