Housing is a Human Right

 

Our City shouldn’t have arbitrary barriers that prevent housing providers from building affordable housing. At the July 15th Public Hearing, council voted on a decision to amend bylaw 12800 to Reduce Regulatory Barriers to Collective and Permanent Supportive Housing. This amendment was recommended as a way of ensuring a variety of housing options are available to meet the needs of all Edmontonians. This includes different types of housing such as lodging type housing and permanent supportive housing like group homes. 

As of June 2019, there are 72 Lodging Houses, 80 Group Homes, and 261 Limited Group Homes registered in the city. There has been a great deal of analysis over the years that more than 20% affordable housing is generally the threshold where there may be impacts to areas like property value, social disorder, etc. As we need close to 50,000 units of affordable housing – ranging from permanent supportive housing (916 units) to slightly below (15%) market rental rates – it was determined that if every community across Edmonton had 16% affordable housing, we would be able to reach our goal. The long term strategy took a few years to develop but I believe it is quite good based on the analysis that went into it. Over the last few years, I’d actually suggest there hasn’t been a ‘build and dash’. This is for a couple of reasons: 1) the builders of affordable housing typically are required to provide supports and as such are there for the long-term. 2) The housing providers now regularly meet together to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and to coordinate their ask for dollars from the provincial and federal governments.

The changes made are not as major as I think they may have been portrayed and I’ll use an example to explain that. The Jasper Place Wellness Centre wants to build three 12 unit homes each on a 50′ lot. These were be permanent supportive housing units similar to their 30 unit building Canora Place. Under the previous rules, they would not be allowed to build three units because there was a restriction of only two units per block. But if they simply rezoned to the RA7 (apartment) zone, which is allowed under the Jasper Place ARP, they would be able to build a fairly large building similar to Canora Place. Therefore the current regulation seems flawed because they could have a similarly sized building with likely more units and yet that would only count as one supportive housing unit on the block which means someone could do another building of equal size on the same block. But they still need to met provincial standards and have compliance standards from the city as well. The major change is that we aren’t regulating who should be living in a building and instead we are regulating the land use. It’s also very important to note that the community was very much in support of this and was closely involved in the process. This also makes this a great example of what can be done when communities work together to solve problems for their residents. 

As always, I welcome your feedback and encourage everyone to review the strategy and subsequent policies. Safe, adequate and affordable housing is fundamental to the physical, economic and social well-being of individuals, families and communities, and we are committed to ensuring that unnecessary barriers don’t prevent these forms of housing from getting built in the first place. 

I’d like to thank the Glenwood Community League for supporting this housing proposal in their community. Every community should have affordable and supportive housing for their residents and it’s great to see this community be so welcoming.

The following amendment recommendations were passed:

Removing Section 76 – Lodging Houses

Removing this section would no longer limit the number of individuals who could reside in a Lodging House. It would remove any restrictions on the type of building design appropriate for a Lodging House and the need for the building to resemble the surrounding residential development. Increases in traffic demand would not be a consideration for approval by Development Approval staff

Removing Section 79 – Group Homes and Limited Group Homes

Section 79 describes special land use regulations on Group Homes and Limited Group Homes. The proposed changes remove any restrictions on the number of residents permitted in a Group Home or Limited Group Home. Like Lodging Houses, the changes would remove any restrictions on the type of building design appropriate for these two housing uses and the need for the building to resemble the surrounding residential development. Increases in traffic demand would not be a consideration for approval by Development Approval staff

Removing Section 96 – Thresholds for Fraternity and Sorority Housing, Group Homes, Limited Group Homes and Lodging Houses

Section 96 established the maximum number of Fraternity and Sorority Housing, Group Homes, Limited Group Homes or Lodging Houses to 2 facilities per block, 3 per 1000 people per neighbourhood, 12 residents per opposing block face where Group Homes is a discretionary use or 30 residents per block face where Group Homes is a Permitted Use. The amendments would remove these limits however there would still be opportunities for post-approval notifications and opportunities to appeal to the Subdivision Development and Appeal Board if the use is listed as discretionary in the applicable zone

Changing the definition of “Limited Group Home”

The definition of “Limited Group Home” is proposed to be revised to state that the use should be located in a freestanding structure that is purpose- built or wholly converted for that purpose. For example, this revision would require a Limited Group Home project to completely convert a Single Detached House, or semi-Detached House, or any other building such as a small church to that use. This allows more than a Single Detached House to be converted to a Limited Group Home use (what is currently permitted) but also ensures that building types such as Semi-Detached and Row Housing are wholly used for the Limited Group Home purpose. 

 

 

 

 

Written by A. Knack and K. Machin

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