How Airdrie Plans to Build More Affordable Housing with Federal Funding

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Key Takeaway Box:

  • Airdrie is one of the recipients of the Housing Accelerator Fund, a federal program that aims to increase housing supply and affordability in Canada.
  • The city will use the $24.8 million to create 900 new homes over three years, with a focus on low-carbon and climate-resilient design.
  • The fund will help Airdrie address its housing challenges, such as rising costs, limited availability and lack of diversity.
  • The fund will also create opportunities for Airdrie to stimulate its economy, support its residents and showcase its innovation.
  • Other Canadian cities can learn from Airdrie’s example and apply for the fund to boost their own housing supply and affordability.
Airdrie's affordable housing development with federal funding, featuring architectural blueprints, community parks, and a rising skyline.
Building a Brighter Future in Airdrie: Federal Funding Fuels Affordable Housing

Housing is one of the most pressing issues facing Canadians today. Many people struggle to find a suitable and affordable place to live, especially in urban areas where demand exceeds supply. This affects not only the quality of life of individuals and families but also the social and economic well-being of communities.

That’s why the federal government launched the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), a $4-billion program that works with municipalities to remove local barriers to residential development and fast-track the creation of homes across Canada. The fund is part of the National Housing Strategy, a 10-year, $70-billion plan to ensure that every Canadian has a safe and affordable home.

One of the cities that will benefit from the HAF is Airdrie, a fast-growing community of over 70,000 people located just north of Calgary. Airdrie will receive $24.8 million from the fund to build 900 new homes over three years, with a target of 30% of them being affordable.

What is the Housing Accelerator Fund and How Does It Work?

The HAF is a federal program that provides incentive funding to local governments for initiatives that increase housing supply and promote low-carbon and climate-resilient communities. The fund aims to support the development of communities that are affordable, inclusive, equitable and diverse.

The fund has two streams: one for large and urban communities, and one for small, rural, northern and Indigenous communities. The fund is delivered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the federal agency responsible for housing policy and programs.

To access the fund, local governments have to submit action plans that outline their housing goals, challenges, opportunities and solutions. The action plans have to demonstrate how the local governments will:

  • Increase the number of housing units built or preserved
  • Reduce the time and cost of housing development
  • Improve the affordability and accessibility of housing
  • Enhance the environmental performance and resilience of housing
  • Engage with stakeholders and partners to support housing supply
  • Monitor and report on the outcomes and impacts of their initiatives⁴

The fund is designed to be flexible and responsive to the needs and priorities of different communities. The fund can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Streamlining planning and approval processes
  • Providing financial incentives or subsidies to developers or homeowners
  • Acquiring or leasing land or buildings for housing
  • Developing or upgrading infrastructure or services for housing
  • Implementing innovative design or construction methods
  • Supporting community engagement or capacity building

How Airdrie Will Use the $24.8 Million to Boost Affordable Housing Construction

Airdrie is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, with a population increase of 32% between 2011 and 2016⁵. However, the city faces several housing challenges, such as:

  • Rising housing costs that outpace income growth
  • Limited availability and diversity of housing options
  • High demand for rental and affordable housing
  • Low vacancy and turnover rates
  • Aging and inefficient housing stock
  • Lack of alignment and coordination among housing stakeholders

To address these challenges, Airdrie submitted an action plan to the HAF that outlines how the city will use the $24.8 million to create 900 new homes over three years. The action plan includes the following initiatives:

  • Establishing a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to facilitate and manage the development of affordable and market housing on city-owned or acquired land
  • Creating a Housing Incentive Program (HIP) to provide grants, rebates or tax breaks to developers or homeowners who build or renovate affordable or energy-efficient housing
  • Developing a Housing Strategy and Policy Framework (HSPF) to guide the city’s long-term vision, goals and actions for housing
  • Implementing a Housing Information System (HIS) to collect, analyze and share data on housing supply and demand
  • Enhancing the city’s planning and approval processes to reduce barriers and delays for housing development
  • Engaging with the public and stakeholders to raise awareness and support for housing supply and affordability⁶

The action plan also emphasizes the city’s commitment to low-carbon and climate-resilient design, which aligns with the city’s Environmental Master Plan and the federal government’s climate change goals. The city will adopt green building standards, such as LEED or Passive House, for its own projects and encourage developers and homeowners to do the same. The city will also promote the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and waste.


What Challenges and Opportunities Does the Fund Present for Airdrie and Alberta?

The HAF presents both challenges and opportunities for Airdrie and Alberta, as they seek to increase their housing supply and affordability. Some of the challenges include:

  • Securing sufficient and stable funding from other sources, such as the provincial government, to complement the federal fund and ensure the sustainability of the initiatives
  • Balancing the competing interests and expectations of various stakeholders, such as developers, residents, community groups and service providers, and ensuring their meaningful participation and collaboration
  • Adapting to the changing market conditions and consumer preferences, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic downturn, the remote work trend and the demographic shifts
  • Addressing the complex and interrelated factors that affect housing, such as land use, transportation, infrastructure, social services, health, education and employment
  • Measuring and reporting on the outcomes and impacts of the initiatives, and ensuring accountability and transparency to the public and the funders⁷

Some of the opportunities include:

  • Stimulating the local and regional economy, by creating jobs, generating income and attracting investment in the construction and housing sectors
  • Supporting the residents, especially the low- and moderate-income households, by providing them with more affordable, accessible and suitable housing options
  • Showcasing the city’s innovation, by implementing best practices and new solutions for housing development and design
  • Enhancing the city’s reputation, by demonstrating its leadership and commitment to housing supply and affordability
  • Learning from other cities, by sharing experiences and lessons with other recipients of the fund and other communities facing similar housing challenges

How Other Canadian Cities Can Benefit from the Fund and Learn from Airdrie’s Example

The HAF is a unique and timely opportunity for other Canadian cities to benefit from the fund and learn from Airdrie’s example. The fund is open to all municipalities across Canada, regardless of their size, location or housing situation. The fund is also flexible and responsive to the needs and priorities of different communities, allowing them to design and implement their own action plans.

Other Canadian cities can benefit from the fund by:

  • Applying for the fund, by submitting their action plans to the CMHC before the deadline of March 31, 2024
  • Leveraging the fund, by securing matching or additional funding from other sources, such as the provincial or territorial governments, the private sector or the non-profit sector
  • Collaborating with the fund, by engaging with the CMHC and other fund recipients to exchange information, ideas and feedback
  • Evaluating the fund, by monitoring and reporting on the progress, outcomes and impacts of their initiatives, and identifying the challenges, successes and lessons learned

Other Canadian cities can learn from Airdrie’s example:

  • Adopting a holistic and strategic approach to housing, by considering the housing needs and aspirations of their current and future residents, and aligning their housing goals and actions with their broader community vision and plans
  • Embracing a low-carbon and climate-resilient design, by incorporating green building standards, renewable energy sources and environmental performance measures into their housing projects and policies
  • Fostering a culture of innovation, by exploring and experimenting with new and emerging solutions for housing development and design, and showcasing their best practices and achievements
  • Building a strong and diverse partnership, by involving and collaborating with various stakeholders, such as developers, residents, community groups and service providers, and leveraging their expertise, resources and networks
  • Communicating and celebrating their efforts, by raising awareness and support for their housing initiatives, and recognizing and rewarding their partners and participants

Source: (1) Housing Accelerator Fund | CMHC. (2) Housing Accelerator Fund – We help community organizations build …. (3) Housing Accelerator Fund | Regional & Community Planning – Halifax.

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