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EDITORIAL: Time not on our side on housing affordability

Whether it’s buying or renting, housing is getting out of reach for an ever-growing segment of the population.

It’s pretty easy to draw a line between the issues. 

At its most recent meeting, Okotoks council approved new incentives to build affordable housing and received an update on the possibility of creating a housing corporation that would be tasked with the creation and operation of below-market housing units.  

Local governments can only do so much when it comes to affordable housing because their coffers are only so deep, but it’s clear the Town of Okotoks recognizes it’s an issue that’s only going to worsen without intervention. 

That’s because housing in Okotoks is becoming less and less affordable. Last week, the Calgary Real Estate Board’s monthly stats package showed that after four straight record-setting months, house prices dipped ever so slightly in June, although it’s a safe bet that blip is an aberration and that prices will continue to climb around here. 

Whether it’s buying or renting, housing is getting out of reach for an ever-growing segment of the population, which is deeply troubling given it’s one of our basic needs. There simply isn’t enough being done to address an ever-worsening crisis in this country, which is leaving more and more people behind. 

Local governments don’t have the wherewithal to build housing, affordable or otherwise, but they can set policies that make it easier to do so. Relaxing zoning requirements to increase density and create smaller units improves affordability, while waiving or reducing fees provides inducements to developers. 

Okotoks is one of a growing number of local governments to adopt such an approach, but the buy in must come from all corners, and even if that does happen, it can take years to see a project come to fruition. 

Unfortunately, if the rapidly escalating housing market has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t have the luxury of time to address this crisis. 

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