“If a household is spending more than 30 per cent of its gross income on housing,” said Scott Travis, “then, according to Stats Canada, technically they are in the ‘unaffordable’ category.”
Travis is the research director for the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN). He and Asad Bhatti, ARDN capital funding manager, explained the results of the non-profit agency’s first phase report on Hawkesbury’s affordable housing situation to council during its January 19 meeting.
Hawkesbury was one of 20 municipalities that the ARDN selected in 2019 to receive free consultation help on its affordable housing needs. Travis and Bahtti explained details of the 31-page summary report to council.
One result during the meeting is the creation of a new affordable housing committee to provide council with future advice and recommendations on the issue. Councillors Robert Lefebvre, Yves Paquette, and Antonios Tsourounakis all expressed interest in sitting on the committee with Mayor Paula Assaly.
Affordable housing needs
The ARDN report stated that Hawkesbury lacks sufficient one- and two-bedroom housing affordable for families in the municipality’s low-income sector. Single-parent families have the most problems in trying to find suitable affordable housing. The report noted that many low-income families that do have homes, have to spend up to 30 per cent of their income on rent or utilities or other expenses to maintain their home.
The report noted that right now there are more than 1800 people in Hawkesbury, both families and individuals, who need affordable housing in the one- or two-bedroom categories. Councillor Lawrence Bogue expressed doubt about the likelihood of Hawkesbury ever having that amount of affordable housing available in the near future. “I don’t think that we could ever accommodate close to this number,” said Bogue, adding that one challenge would be finding land for any large-scale affordable housing projects.
Councillor Robert Lefebvre observed that Hawkesbury’s aging population may be one factor behind the huge demand for affordable one- and two-bedroom housing.
Travis and Bhatti reviewed several of the recommendations in the report on further action for council to consider in dealing with the local affordable housing issue. Those recommendations include listing current affordable housing programs or projects that exist in Hawkesbury that might be open to expansion; creating a list of potential partners for present or future projects; creating a list of potential project sites; and researching possible funding aid sources.
The ARDN would be able to help the municipality deal with some of these items during the second phase of its free consultation service after council has had a chance for further review and discussion of the report’s information.