BANFF – A Banff home has had an Alberta Health Services enforcement order issued against it after an inspection found at least 42 beds and mattresses for people to live on the property.
The home, found at 321 Squirrel St., had its maximum occupancy of 16 people exceeded when a “total of forth-two beds and/or mattresses were counted in the facility.”
The four-page order was issued to two owners – Janna-Joy Goff and Gail Morgan – on Aug. 4, with it verbally being given to Morgan on July 29.
The inspection found eight violations under the Public Health Act, the Housing Regulation and Minimum Housing and Health Standards such as a person sleeping in a basement room without a window, several holes found in walls throughout the home and multiple broken items.
The AHS order directs the owners to “immediately and diligently pursue the completion” of eight requirements, specifically to not have more than 16 tenants, repair damage and clean all washrooms and kitchens.
James Wood, the director of media relations and issues management for AHS’ Calgary Zone, said the inspection was based on a complaint.
He added AHS does proactive inspections for larger scale staff accommodation in the Bow Valley that are typically 50 or more people, which are usually dorm-style or onsite accommodation at commercial facilities.
The home had been required to reduce the number of residents in 2019 when roughly 24 people were found living there, Wood said.
“The first step in all concerns and complaints is education,” he said in an email. "AHS endeavours to work collaboratively with owners to ensure compliance with regulations and standards. Enforcement is the last option and only taken when there are serious safety concerns.”
Darren Enns, the Town’s director of planning and development, said the Town has received multiple complaints and visited the property numerous times in recent years.
He said in this case, it’s a multi-agency response with AHS initiating the order and it then triggering municipal inspection and enforcement. That involves the fire department and building inspector from the Town.
Enns added the number of beds and mattresses found was “extremely high” and “is an outlier”.
The home, which is in the RSC residential squirrel cougar district, allows single family homes up to fourplexes to permit a wide latitude on what can be built. The specific house is allowed to have no more than six beds in the land use bylaw.
“At the end of the day, there’s several solutions. Some of it comes down to quality of life and the fact that people don’t want to live in a house with 40 people and the market will drive these people out of business, which is a good thing,” he said.
“There’s other solutions such as the Town providing housing through municipal housing projects and indirectly encouraging housing through a zoning in the land use framework that encourages densification.”
According to the Town of Banff’s 2022 assessment roll, the home has an assessed value of $1.678 million.
The owners have until Sept. 12 to complete the order.
Banff has long had a low vacancy rate as people flock – especially seasonal workers under 40 – to live and work in Banff National Park. However, after traditionally hovering on or around zero per cent, the vacancy rate hit 1.1 per cent in 2018.
Statistics Canada’s 2021 census data had 8,305 living in the largely tourism-based community, but a large number were between 20 and 39.
Those age ranges had 3,425 people – roughly 40 per cent of the population – but of those, 1,050 were between 25 and 29.
Census data found there were 2,930 homes occupied by residents with nearly half – 1,425 – being in an apartment with five or fewer storeys. There were also 545 homes that were an apartment or a flat in a duplex, while 1,035 lived in a house with two people.
The average household size was 2.3 people, according to the census data, and the median total income of people 15 and over was $41,200 and $36,800 after taxes.
The town also has the rare need-to-reside regulation from Parks Canada that mandates a person living in Banff needs to work in the mountain community, further hampering the search for housing of many people attempting to live in Banff.
In a statement, Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said affordable housing is a priority for the community.
“As a community who welcomes the world, Banff is a beautiful place to live but it’s imperative that it’s also a safe and comfortable place to call home,” she said. “As such, we will continue to work with the provincial agency to monitor the housing situation in Banff and to ensure landlords comply with our stringent occupancy and safety requirements.”
According to the housing rental rates in the spring labour market review put out bi-annually by the Job Resource Centre, the average rental rate in Banff for a one-bedroom is $1,482 and $1,848 for a two-bedroom.
A three-bedroom averages $2,553, while a studio or bachelor is $958. The rates are based on listings between Aug. 2021 to Jan. 2022 from sites such as Kijiji, Facebook listings and in the newspaper.
One of the key strategic goals of Town councils has been to increase both the vacancy rate and the amount of affordable units for residents.
The Banff Housing Corporation operates as a non-profit organization to help offer residents price restricted and equity share home ownership, while it also operates the Ti-nu affordable apartment complex.
The Aster affordable housing project is continuing to be constructed and another is being planned for Cave Avenue. There are also numerous duplexes and townhouses in areas such as Sulphur Court, Middle Springs, Fairholme Place and Riverview Court.
“Ultimately we can only do so much and that’s why the focus is on redevelopment of existing properties,” Enns said. “Everyone in Banff understands all development in Banff is redevelopment, so there’s an empathy we need to redevelopment residential properties to meet our demand. I think that reduces some of the traditional arguments you may find in other communities.”