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Edmonton forms ‘action team’ to address housing supply

Warren Frey
Edmonton forms ‘action team’ to address housing supply

The City of Edmonton has established a housing action team to work across departments and address affordability issues.

“It started earlier this year in response to the City of Edmonton’s executive leadership team deciding to work on city council’s housing emphasis. Given the federal Housing Accelerator Fund, it made sense to co-ordinate city activities relating to housing affordability across the whole spectrum,” said City of Edmonton Housing Action Team director Christel Kjenner.

The federal government introduced its Housing Accelerator Fund in 2023 to help local governments address housing supply challenges.

“We’re bringing in social policy, real estate, infrastructure, urban policy and other factors. The housing action team is focusing on supporting supply that the housing market isn’t always providing,” she said.

She added the goal is to bring 5,200 units over the baseline housing supply over the next three years.

“We’re concentrating on some non-market, affordable housing along with transit-oriented developments and the ‘missing middle’ housing,” Kjenner said.

Kjenner said Edmonton does a better job than most Canadian cities in terms of market housing affordability.

“It’s a robust industry that does a good job of supply for most people. Supply is in large quantities for those who can afford home ownership,” she said.

“The average income here is sufficient to afford a home but it’s a tale of two cities when it comes to affordability. When it comes to renters, there’s a more significant challenge.”

Kjenner said one-in-four in the city are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs, with those in severe housing need spending up to 50 per cent.

“The market alone will not provide housing for them, and the gap between market rental and what they can pay is just too great,” she said.

Kjenner said the city needs to maintain an affordability advantage and “the way we do that is continuing to remove barriers to market housing supply.”

One solution she cited was adopting a new zoning bylaw that allows eight units on lots citywide, as well as streamlining zoning bylaws which she termed “antiquated and complex.”

“As a whole, the city is quite progressive in adopting these measures. Ten years ago we allowed secondary suites and five years ago garden suites and semi-detached secondary suites (were allowed),” she said. “It’s a city-wide policy, which is unique to Edmonton.”

Infill development is a priority for the city, Kjenner added.

“It’s a target because we know what’s necessary for a climate resilient and financially resilient city. We have access to existing services and infrastructure which is much more cost effective for the city,” she said.

“However, that doesn’t mean infrastructure in redeveloping areas is without hiccups. When creating new homes where less houses used to be there’s a need for infrastructure upgrades and that may require improvements, which can also benefit adjacent sites,” she said.

Older neighbourhoods may also need more work to bring them up to current infrastructure standards, she added.

“Some older neighbourhoods might have combined sewer and stormwater. Then there’s increased electrification with more demands for power than previously buried powerlines (can provide),” she said.

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