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Proposed Grande Prairie affordable housing strategy up for debate

A potential strategy for affordable housing in Grande Prairie is now up for debate. The 2020-2030 Affordable Housing Strategy and Grande Prairie Community Housing Company Business Plan suggests that to meet demand, the City of Grande Prairie must create 359 new units for people who qualify, in order to keep up an appropriate ratio.

Currently, the city has over 3,000 households meeting the threshold of “core housing needs”, which means they don’t have appropriate housing or pay more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs. However, there are only 766 affordable housing units available.

One proposed solution would be to create a city-run agency called the Grande Prairie Community Housing Corporation, which was thoroughly debated at a meeting of the Infrastructure and Protective Services Committee on Tuesday. Mayor Bill Given says that idea is not new, as it has been talked about at length as recently as 2018.

“I think that took an undue amount of the discussion when really it’s simply one tool in the toolbox that would help the city meet its aims. It’s a tool that doesn’t exist and has been under consideration or identified as a need or a gap for a number of years now.”

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The proposal hasn’t come without criticism. In a letter signed by both the President of the Grande Prairie Region of the Canadian Homebuilders Association Scott Pravitz and UDI (Urban Development Institute) Grande Prairie President Jeremy Walker, they have concerns. Those include that the city could be trying to push changes too quickly and without proper consultation.

“Although it would have been beneficial to comment and discuss via a focus group or stakeholder meeting, it has come to our attention that the city wishes to rapidly implement the strategy and has directed administration to reduce any potential delays to the strategy adoption process,” the statement reads.

Councillors at the committee meeting also shared in that concern. Councillor Wade Pilat suggested that more consultation is needed. Meanwhile, Councillor Dylan Bressey commented in a Facebook post that he doesn’t think anyone on city council or city administration has any desire to compete with private industry.

“In fact, a big part of the strategy proposed to Council measures [sic] to help private industry be able to undertake a wider range of projects all on its own. That being said, I think there is some work to be done to ensure the City doesn’t inadvertently compete with industry.”

The next step for the plan will be a full discussion with all of city council, where the overall strategy and business plan could be changed, given the green light, or shot down. Given says discussions with those in real estate development will also continue.

“It is absolutely not the general market out in Grande Prairie and in our community and I think there may be a need for the city to continue to work with industry to help them understand the focus of this development.”

The 2020-2030 Affordable Housing Strategy and Grande Prairie Community Housing Company Business Plan can be found online.

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