Calgary City Councillors Propose Pilot Program to Simplify Housing Development Process

Seven Calgary city councillors have put forward a notice of motion to establish a pilot program aimed at streamlining up-zoning applications in the city. The initiative comes as the city council endeavors to address the challenges of an increasingly difficult housing market and grapples with the recommendations provided by the City of Calgary’s Housing and Affordability Task Force (HTAF).

The HTAF recommendations, which are under review, include a citywide base up-zoning to Residential – Grade Oriented Infill (R-CG), which permits the construction of higher-density residences such as townhouses and rowhouses. The implementation of this recommendation would eliminate the need for a land-use redesignation application, but one of the councillors, Sonya Sharp, believes that citizen input should not be excluded from the process.

The Notice of Motion, led by Coun. Sonya Sharp, will be initially examined at the Executive Committee meeting on September 6 and, if approved, will be debated at the September 12 meeting of the Calgary city council. Sharp’s proposed pilot program aims to expedite the housing land-use redesignations and development permits by eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and reducing timelines, making the process more efficient and cost-effective for developers.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek has expressed reservations about the motion, considering it a short-term solution rather than a comprehensive approach to address the housing crisis faced by the city. Gondek believes that streamlining the housing development process should be part of the larger housing conversation and that citizen input is crucial for community-building discussions.

Coun. Kourtney Penner, representing Ward 11, also expressed skepticism about the notice of motion, characterizing it as a minor adjustment to an existing process and suggesting that it may delay the necessary conversation about making significant changes to housing policy in the city.

Nonetheless, Sharp remains hopeful that the proposed pilot program will incentivize builders by reducing timelines and freezing fees. The success of the program will be measured by the number of houses and applications produced within the next 18 months. Sharp emphasizes the importance of removing barriers to housing development and making the process more accessible and transparent for citizens.

Despite concerns from some councillors and the mayor, Sharp believes that this pilot program is a crucial step that should have been taken regardless of the HTAF’s recommendations. The goal is to facilitate the construction of more homes in Calgary and ensure that citizens feel comfortable and included throughout the process of housing development.