Federal government pledges $25M for affordable housing project in West Springs

SAMMY HUDES | Calgary Herald | Updated: February 11, 2020

From left; Truman Homes vice-president Oliver Trutina, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, and Truman Homes president George Trutina pose for a photo on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 at the site of Mulberry, a five-storey 96-unit rental building being developed by Truman Homes.

The federal government will invest $24.5 million toward the construction of an affordable rental building in southwest Calgary, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Tuesday.

Speaking in West Springs, where the five-storey building will be home to 96 one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, Garneau said the funding is part of the Liberal government’s Rental Construction Financing initiative.

“It’s a program that’s providing a much-needed boost to Calgary’s rental supply by addressing increased demand for rental housing,” he said.

The building at the western edge of the city, to be known as the Mulberry, is being developed by Truman Homes. The company says annual rents at the Mulberry will be less than 30 per cent of Calgary’s median household income, with at least 31 units held at or below that level for at least 21 years.

More than 10 per cent of the units will meet municipal accessibility requirements. Construction of the building will be completed by June 2021.

“We want to create homes that are affordable, energy-efficient and accessible,” said Garneau. “We want to create communities where people can live close to their jobs, schools, public transit and other services.”

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau speaks at a news conference regarding Mulberry, a housing development by Truman Homes, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020.

Ottawa has invested $13.75 billion through the Rental Construction Financing initiative since it launched in 2017. Garneau said that will lead to the eventual construction of 42,500 affordable housing units across the country.

He said the Mulberry will help address a need in an area of Calgary where there are currently not enough rental units.

“We’re aiming to not only reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent, but also to create up to 125,000 new housing units, repair some 300,000 existing ones and remove 530,000 households from housing need, so families don’t have to choose between paying rent or paying for their groceries,” Garneau said.

Oliver Trutina, vice-president of Truman Homes, said up to one-quarter of its projects include affordable housing initiatives each year.

Trutina said the company aims to develop “inclusive” communities.

“We recognize that people from all walks of life ought to have the right to a safe and stable home regardless of their income,” he said.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a tweet that the federal government’s investment will help grow the city’s inventory of rental units.

“It’s important to the health and vibrancy of our city that there is rental space for families,” he said.

“The commitment to decades of rental affordability here is a great sign for families. We still have so much work to do on our affordable housing file. Our strategy calls for 15,000 more units in the non-market space, and we’ll continue to work with our partners at the federal and provincial governments to ensure that everyone in Calgary has access to housing.”

Sarah Woodgate, director of Calgary Housing, said three per cent of the city’s housing stock consists of affordable units. The average for major cities across Canada is six per cent.

“We’ve fallen really far behind,” Woodgate said. “What this translates to is a gap of about 15,000 new homes to meet the national average for urban centres.”

She said Calgary residents have identified affordable housing as a priority for investment in the city. Calgary Housing is looking to all levels of government, as well as the non-profit and private sectors, to work together to close that gap.

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