An affordable housing action plan, which is part of a federal grant application, will be coming to council this week along with a $3.75 million borrowing bylaw and possible amendments to the just recently approved community amenities site plan.
A three-year affordable housing action plan is being brought forward by administration for council's approval as part of a federal grant application that, if the city is chosen as a recipient, could net St. Albert anywhere between $7 and $12 million.
The grant program, called the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), was announced as part of last year's federal budget and is currently thought to be a one-time opportunity. According to a report to council, the HAF program is intended to incentivize municipalities to make local procedural changes that are thought to accelerate the development of both affordable and market-rate housing.
"Municipalities are being asked to develop an action plan as the basis of their application, identifying specific initiatives that the city will undertake to achieve a minimum 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," reads a council document.
"Costs associated with implementing the action plan are eligible to be funded entirely under HAF and will not require additional funding from the city."
Further refinement and development are required, and administration has proposed a nine-point action plan, which includes new initiatives such as an incentive program for the development of accessory dwelling units, such as basement suites, and an incentive program for the development of affordable housing.
A summary of each point of the action plan was provided to council in a confidential report.
On Tuesday, Aug. 15, council will be asked to approve and sign off on the action plan so that the city can apply for the grant before the Aug. 18 deadline.
$3.75 million borrowing bylaw
As the Gazette reported in July, city council is looking to approve a $3.75 million borrowing bylaw in order to receive a corresponding grant of $1.25 million.
First reading of the bylaw passed unanimously last month, and second and final reading is scheduled to pass on consent on Tuesday.
The loan, which, if passed, will be paid back over 10 years, is necessary for the city to receive grant funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Community Building Retrofit Program, which FCM is administering on behalf of the federal government.
Council heard last month St. Albert qualified for the grant program for the recent renovation and repair work undertaken on Fountain Park Pool. Despite that work being funded entirely through the city's 2023 budget, the $3.75 million loan will appear on the city's books for the Fountain Park Pool work.
With $3.75 million in city lifecycle funds set to be offset with the passing of the borrowing bylaw, a report to council states that administration plans to put a corresponding amount towards the ongoing RCMP detachment expansion and renovation project, which council approved a $7.5 million borrowing bylaw for late last year.
Rec centre plan amendments
Despite council just last month giving preliminary approval to the most detailed site plan and concept design to date of the future community amenities site, council will debate two motions on Tuesday and, if passed, could scrap the current design or at least bump the project's cost by about $14 million.
Coun. Mike Killick is looking to have a second ice sheet added to the facility, at the expense of at least the outdoor ball diamond, but possibly an outdoor soccer field as well. Killick wants to add a second ice sheet to the rec centre's design to meet the demand for ice time in St. Albert.
Adding a second ice sheet could add an additional $14 million to the project's estimate; however, it would increase the number of annual "prime time" ice hours available by about 16 per cent, according to city staff.
Prime ice time hours are evenings and weekends between September and March. Currently, not including the first ice sheet already planned for the future rec-centre, the city calculated about 9,600 in prime time hours each year.
Last year, the prime time ice was 94 per cent filled, leaving just 600 hours of prime ice time available. Each additional ice sheet included in the future rec centre would add about 1,800 prime ice hours each year, the report says.
Coun. Sheena Hughes wants to remove the proposed high school space from the rec-centre site plan and create a new high school site on the city's Badger Lands, located just north of Villeneuve Road.
Hughes said she put the motion forward because if Killick's motion passes, the proposed high school would have no outdoor field space, which she thought was a "basic amenity" expected for a high school.
City staff have "some concern" about removing the high school from the site plan because of the three existing school sites in St. Albert, this is the only space considered suitable for a high school, according to a council report.
If the motion passes, project planners will need to reevaluate the entire site plan as the high school is a "major factor" in how the rec centre is laid out.
"This will likely be a substantive revision and will require additional time and budget to complete," the report says.
Other items on the agenda
Council will also be debating other motions on Tuesday, including a motion brought forward by Mayor Cathy Heron that looks to provide a $5,000 sponsorship of the 50th annual Poundmaker Powwow, which is scheduled for Aug. 18-20 in St. Albert.
The motion is set to pass on consent, meaning it's likely council will not debate the item.
Coun. Killick has two more motions set to be discussed on Tuesday, both of which seek to have project charters created for paving the parking lots at Lacombe Lake and the Botanic Garden.
If Killick's motions pass, then administration will create project charters for both parking lots and the charters will be added to the 10-year growth plan, which determines project funding in each annual budget.
The Gazette will have coverage of the council meeting in the Aug. 17 edition of the newspaper.