Change is never easy, but it is sometimes necessary.
At its regular meeting on April 14, Lacombe council heard from Anna Bubel of Another Way Consulting in a presentation on how the City might be able to increase its housing stock and change the status quo in Lacombe’s housing market.
“We know that these are challenging policy conversations,” said Bubel. “It means a change and people resist change, so it’s not easy.”
At the end of last November council heard Bubel’s initial report that stated Lacombe was in desperate need of increased housing stock and a greater variety of housing products. In particular, low-income housing and multifamily dwellings were scarce in Lacombe and council also heard that the vacancy rate in Lacombe was at less than 1%.
After this had been done, the next step was to have Another Way meet with stakeholders in the community to propose possible strategies on how the City could solve these issues. Two stakeholder consultations workshops were held to devise strategy and also make several recommendations for the City to pursue in the short-term, medium-term and long-term.
These strategies seek to accomplish four outcomes. The objectives are to increase the variety of housing stock in Lacombe, improve the affordability of that housing stock, enhance the sustainability of housing and infrastructure and maintain a sense of community and ‘neighbourliness’ in Lacombe.
In her presentation, Bubel spoke of the risks the City would face if they did not take action. Bubel said if the status quo remains, Lacombe will be outstripped by neighbouring communities growing faster, the number of people in Lacombe’s core housing need will grow, businesses may suffer when hiring if affordable housing is not available for potential workers, the City could run out of serviced land and builders may prefer to operate in centres with greater options.
There are several methods the City can use to accomplish these outcomes. Some of these include creating or promoting existing programs like home sharing, providing incentives for builders or by changing policies, practices and bylaws related to planning and development of new residential areas.
Bubel said the City and council certainly have some important and challenging decisions to make ahead. But, she added that Lacombe is not the first community to face such a problem and therefore does not need to re-invent the wheel to tackle these problems.
“Others have done this work across the country,” said Bubel. She also encouraged council to follow the example of other successful communities to accomplish the necessary goals.
Councillor Grant Harder agreed. He requested to see some examples of strategies used by other communities in order to learn from them.
“I would really like to see some successful ideas, examples from other municipalities,” said Harder. “Things that have worked and maybe even things that have not worked, because we can learn from that as well.”
Bubel said that she had already begun developing such a presentation for the stakeholder consultation workshops and would be happy to share the information with council.
Councillor Reuben Konnik did not seem too enthused with the daunting task ahead, but agreed that change was necessary.
“I think it’s a bit of an understatement when you say, ‘Challenging policy discussions await you,’ we have a hard enough time getting developers to build in Lacombe as it is,” said Konnik “I look forward to seeing where we can go with this, but, challenging is an understatement.”
Council has not decided which strategies they will adopt and which recommendations the City will follow as of yet, but in order for administration to begin exploring options, the proposed strategic plan was accepted in principle.