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Housing Needs Assessment Report shows local impact of national issue

Posted on September 26, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

Coaldale council received a report on current housing needs within the town, during the Sept. 11 regular council meeting.

In the fall of 2022, Coaldale town council met with the board of the Green Acres Foundation (GAF), a regional seniors non-profit housing management body, to learn about all of the steps involved in obtaining grant funding to work towards building more seniors housing in Coaldale. In order to move forward GAF indicated that one of the next steps would be to prepare and undergo an official Housing Needs Assessment (HNA). Following this discussion, Town Administration began preparing an official HNA through the Government of Alberta’s Affordable Housing Needs Assessment tool, which is administered by the Ministry of Seniors, Community and Social Services.

According to Town Administration, receiving Council’s official endorsement of the HNA is the final step in the HNA process. Once Council has approved the HNA, Administration will submit it to the Ministry of Seniors, Community and Social Services for consideration.

The report to council also detailed that earlier this summer, administration also prepared and submitted a grant application for the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund, an initiative designed to increase housing supply in Canada by incentivizing municipal governments.

Although creating more housing units is the final goal, municipalities which are successful in obtaining funding are not required to spend grant funds on constructing housing, as the scope of the eligible expenses can also include capital projects and foundational infrastructure, such as water and sewage, for example, which are needed to support additional development in a municipality.

Manager of Government Relations at the Town of Coaldale, Jonathan Wensveen, said administration learned while preparing the application for the Housing Accelerator Fund, the completion of an HNA seemed to be a common factor among successful applicants. Although the completion of an HNA is not a legislated requirement in Alberta, it is in other provinces.

“We noticed that if you had a housing needs report attached, it increased your score,” said Wensveen.

Contained within the Sept. 11 agenda was the Housing Needs Report, which detailed Coaldale’s needs, in terms of housing supply versus current and projected growth and population data.

According to the report, the population of Coaldale as of 2021 was 9,042 with 3,230 households, and is projected to reach 9,489 with 3,530 households by 2028. The report also showed median age for residents is 37.2 with 2.7 people per household.

In 2021, 17.5 per cent of Coaldale’s population was over 65, however the report notes it is projected this population of residents over 65, “will also continue to increase at a relatively rapid rate.” The

In town, 83.13 per cent of households own their homes, 16.87 rent, of which 5.5 per cent live in subsidized rentals.

The report noted the Town will see two new subdivisions come online in coming years, which will add upwards of 300 new houses. As such, the Town, “anticipates household and population growth will likely grow at a faster rate,” than what data reflected in the assessment.

Additionally, the report includes data on income and economic data from the 2021 Census. The median household income across all households in town is $91,000; with median income for home owners and renters documented as $98,000 and $66,500, respectively.

According the report, a household is considered to be in “core housing need” if defined by whether the housing does not meet one or more of the adequacy, suitability or affordability standards, in addition to a household allocated more than 30 per cent or more of it’s pre-tax income to access acceptable local housing.

The report unsurprisingly shows lower instances of owner households falling under “core housing need.” It also shows amongst owner households, significantly fewer households are spending above 30 per cent of their household income on housing, when compared to renters.

For example, the report documents that 7.25 per cent of owner households are categorized as “in core housing need” across three bedroom households. Conversely, for renter households in three bedrooms, 19.35 per cent of renter households in the three bedroom category are in core housing need; and nearly one third (29.03 per cent) of three bedroom renter households are spending more than 30 per cent of house income on housing.

For one bedroom renter households, 42 per cent were considered to be in core housing need, and 57.14 per cent were spending more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter.

The report notes the Town’s 2020 Town Plan is based on a two phase public engagement initiative which identified inclusive and affordable housing was a key concern for respondents.

The report shows that as of 2021, there was a 24 unit deficient for self-contained seniors housing, with new demand for 128 new units by 2028, which if unaddressed, will result in a total unit deficit of 152 units. Additionally, the report shows a 31 unit deficit for seniors lodging, which is expected to grow to an 87 unit deficient for this category by 2028.

The report also outlines the Town’s housing priorities which were listed as seniors lodge housing, and self-contained seniors housing. The report notes both the seniors lodge and two self-contained seniors facilities are always at capacity. The findings shows that due to the 0 per cent vacancy rates for both the lodge ad self contained units, many senior Coaldale residents have had to relocate to the City of Lethbridge where there is space. The report notes as seniors relocate, this often has a spillover effect and impacts resident retention, as families fo seniors tend to “follow suit” and relocate as well.

Since senior residents require more healthcare than their younger counterparts, “having a seniors housing deficit detracts from the Town’s ability to advocate for better healthcare services.

“AHS tends to allocate resources and services according to where seniors reside,” reads the report ad said this constitutes a, “chicken and egg cycle,” which needs to be disrupted in order to provide seniors with housing which allow them to age in community, ad provide residents of all ages with enhanced healthcare services.

Council passed a motion to endorse the HNA report as presented.

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