Banff considers building staff housing
The Town of Banff is investigating building housing for its seasonal and short-term staff.
At a meeting Monday (June 25), council gave administration its blessing to return with a report outlining a housing project, including the type and costs, during 2013 capital budget deliberations later this year.
Administration will also look at opportunities for year-round housing in partnership with other employers in town, such as ski areas or other temporary foreign worker employers.
“As an organization that has employees, we have an obligation to provide housing to the best of our ability, just like other businesses in town,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen.
But Councillors Stavros Karlos and Leslie Taylor were opposed to building housing.
“Isn’t this what we want the Banff Housing Corporation to be doing?” asked Karlos. “Our highest likelihood to reduce costs is through the BHC. I think we’d be duplicating efforts. We should wait until the housing needs study is completed.”
Taylor raised concerns about spending money on a short-term issue.
“I’m concerned we’d be spending capital money to build a structure to deal with a problem that we know is short-term,” she said. “I would prefer to designate some suites as short-term suites. They will turn over and solve the problem.”
Town officials said a survey of staff showed there is a need for housing during the summer months, where the municipality has higher staffing levels for summer operations, such as in grounds, bylaw and children and youth programs.
Barbara King, the Town of Banff’s manager of human resources, said there is great interest in investigating housing alternatives for short-term employment agreements.
She said the accommodation could be for summer seasonal staff who want hands-on work experience in Banff, but live in another city or province. It could be for grant-funded positions or term positions to fill vacancies like maternity leave.
Finally, King said, the accommodation could be for full-time employees who accept a position and are relocating to Banff to begin work at the municipality, while they look for permanent housing.
“In order to maximize year-round occupancy, the Town of Banff would consider entering into short-term agreements with such prospects as ski area employers or with employers who require housing assistance with temporary foreign workers arriving in Banff,” she said.
A survey of Town of Banff staff found that 72.5 per cent of employees do not need staff accommodation – 43.1 per cent own in Banff, 9.8 per cent rent in Banff, 13.7 per cent own in Canmore and 5.9 per cent did not specify.
Almost 20 per cent indicated they would move out of Banff’s staff accommodation with the intent of buying a home in the Bow Valley.
Meanwhile, council also directed that all staff accommodation buildings owned and operated by the Town of Banff be designated as non-smoking, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.
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