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EDITORIAL: Need for housing in Bow Valley to see significant change in coming years

EDITORIAL: There’s no greater need in the Bow Valley than housing, particularly when it comes to affordable units.
Lafarge Plant and Bow Valley
The Lafarge plant in the MD of Bighorn and a view of the Bow Valley from Yates Mountain. RMO FILE PHOTO

There’s no greater need in the Bow Valley than housing, particularly when it comes to affordable units.

Recent weeks have seen several steps forward in providing such housing for existing and future residents.

As with any development, construction and planning takes a significant amount of time and even the most cautious timelines are often pushed back due to outside factors.

The coming years will see residential construction taking place at nearly every corner of the Bow Valley.

Thousands of new residential units – both market and affordable – will sprout up from the ground in the next two decades across the valley.

A redesignation of a direct control district for four- and six-storey apartment buildings in the Palliser Trail area structure plan (ASP) was approved by Canmore council to start the process of developing roughly 1,300 residential units, including more than 1,000 affordable units under Canmore Community Housing.

Canmore council approved a $3.38 million construction loan to Canmore Community Housing to help construction costs for 18 affordable housing units in Stewart Creek.

After receiving Housing Accelerator Fund financing from the federal government, the Town of Banff has quickly pushed ahead in potentially amending its land use bylaw to increase residential density, eliminating minimum parking requirements and streamlining development applications.

The railway lands area redevelopment plan in Banff could potentially add badly needed housing in the townsite. Though a municipality is unable to mandate types of housing, Banff council wants to make sure future development that would expand floor area or intensity of use would require staff housing to receive development approval.

Banff council also pushed up the residential development aspects to take place within five to 10 years. Second and third reading of the plan is expected to take place this year, but any development would ultimately be up to the long-term leaseholders of the lands.

An update will also be given to Banff council Monday, May 13, on possible housing on Tatanga Ridge and associated costs for servicing, while preliminary information for possible affordable housing on Wolf Street will be provided.

Canmore council approved the use of $550,000 in reserves to continue its Housing Action Plan. Though unsuccessful for the same federal funding Banff received, the Town is moving forward with plans such as possibly phasing out the tourist home designation and establishing a tax structure to encourage purpose-built rental units.

The Three Sisters Village ASP received approval for the conceptual scheme for the first phase. Though highly polarizing in the community, the project will bring 700-1,075 residential units online.

Of those, a minimum of 10 per cent will be affordable and could rise to as high as 20 per cent, depending on whether developers choose to go after higher density. The plan will see the first builds finished in 2026.

Similar plans for phasing in Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek developments will also trickle in during the coming years, with construction likely to take place at the same time in the multiple areas of phasing.

The MD of Bighorn has ongoing work for both an ARP in Harvie Heights and the municipality’s Municipal Development Plan as well as new single-family homes in Exshaw.

Roam transit will take control of a staff accommodation in Teepee Town, providing badly needed housing for staff for its growing fleet of buses, with adding to its housing inventory of an existing property in Middle Springs in Banff.

For many long-time residents, the changing landscape will no doubt be a jarring experience as the valley evolves and grows.

No longer is the Bow Valley a stagnant and slow-moving region like it would’ve been in the 1960s and ‘70s.

As development occurs, it’s incumbent on both the public and private sectors to be transparent and open as plans come to the public’s attention.

Though pushback on any development is normal, particularly with the potential impacts on wildlife, being see-through in ongoing and future plans, hearing from the public and addressing or mitigating concerns is necessary.

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