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City to apply for federal housing accelerator grant

St. Albert city council approved an internally developed housing action plan on Aug. 15, which is the basis of the city's application to the federal government's Housing Accelerator Fund.
The city's new three-year nine-point housing action plan will still need to be further developed and defined. FILE/Photo

St. Albert council is applying to the federal government for funding to increase the housing supply in the city.

City council unanimously approved an internally developed housing action plan on Aug. 15, which is the basis of the city's application to the federal government's Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

The HAF was announced as part of last year's federal budget. Lory Scott, the city's affordable housing liaison, wrote in a report to council the program is meant to encourage municipalities to improve housing approval timelines and increase supply in return for funding dollars. 

If its application is approved, administration estimates the city could receive between $7 and $12 million.

The city's new three-year, nine-point housing action plan will need further development, Scott wrote, although the plan includes creating two new housing development incentive programs, two new city strategies for pushing infill and brownfield development, and implementing electronic permitting software to speed up process timelines.

To be eligible for grant funding, the city's action plan should achieve at least a “10 per cent increase in the number of residential housing units completed over the next three years, achieving a minimum growth rate of at least 1.1 per cent,” Scott's report states.

“Costs associated with implementing the action plan are eligible to be funded entirely under HAF and will not require additional funding from the city.”

The city will also have to complete a housing needs assessment before the fall of 2025, with a reoccurring review throughout the three-year grant term, according to the application. 

Coun. Wes Brodhead said he was pleased the federal government was “stepping up to the plate” in terms of trying to combat the affordable housing crisis seen across the country.

Anything that comes that will help us make ourselves a well-rounded community available to all members of society I think is a good thing," Brodhead said.

“I'm really hopeful that we're successful and we get funding that allows us to do this.”

Likewise, Coun. Ken MacKay said he felt applying for a HAF grant aligns well with all the city's strategies and priorities.

“We've long identified the fact that we don't have that type of housing product in the middle ... we're starting to see a little bit more in relation to some of those other housing (types), whether it's apartments or townhomes, but this actually allows us to incentivize some of the builders to continue to invest in that development,” he said.

“I'm quite optimistic that we will be successful and, in the end, really, what do we have to lose? We could receive $7 to $12 million and at no cost other than benefiting the community.”

Prior to voting, Coun. Natalie Joly said she was “delighted” to see the initiatives included in administration's action plan.

“They're really critical for the sustainability of our community,” she said.

Scott's report says if the application is successful then the city will need to enter into an agreement with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation “providing commitment to action plan initiatives, housing targets, funding distribution and reporting requirements.”

“Payments will be provided in four installments, the first upon signing of the agreement in addition to two annual payments upon confirmation of meeting the proposed annual housing targets,” Scott wrote. “The final payment will be received upon program completion and confirmation that the plan has met the intended growth targets and plan objectives.”

Scott's report doesn't say when the city expects to know whether its application will be approved.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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