Banff provides grant for YWCA housing project

Rocky Mountain Outlook, February 14, 2019

Paul Clarke

BANFF – The Town of Banff will forgo $152,000 in municipal development fees to help the YWCA build its $8.8 million affordable housing project.

Council unanimously agreed to provide the grant in lieu of development application fees during a council meeting on Monday (Feb. 11). The money will come from the Town’s budget stabilization reserve, which currently has $620,000.

Still shy of $3.2 million in funding for the Banff Courtyard Project, the YWCA had previously asked council to consider waiving $47,200 in development fees, however upon further review administration determined development fees associated with the project were closer to $152,000.

“We know that this is a substantial request, it’s not the kind of money you find in the couch after the Super Bowl, but in context of $8.875 million capital project cost for the Court Yard Project it equates to 1.7 per cent,” said Steve Crotty, chief operations officer for the YWCA.

“I think this is a rare and unique opportunity for a modest investment that will have a lasting impact on the housing continuum.”

When the Courtyard Project is complete it will create 33 affordable housing units, including nine hostel units available for both short and long-term rental.

The units will be designed for residents who face barriers to finding suitable rental accommodation in Banff.

Criteria for potential residents would include, though not exclusively, new and extended families and people with accessibility needs, with the common thread of being lower income earners. Rental rates will be about 10 to 20 per cent below market value.

Coun. Ted. Christensen said he supported the request, but asked whether council could restrict the use of the nine hostel units, so they aren’t used for short-term overnight accommodation.

Jennifer Laforest, a planner with the Town, said the mixed-used application is similar to the characteristics of the existing development and fits in well with the land use district for the area.

Coun. Chip Olver reminded her colleagues the YWCA is also a charitable organization, so any revenue generated from the project would have to be reinvested into the organization.

“It’s a type of housing that I don’t believe is provided elsewhere in our community and I just want to stress that not only are they a non profit, they are a charitable organization and so any money that they make through a dormitory room that they may rent to somebody who is not a long-term resident has to go back into their purpose,” said Olver.

“Every dollar they make goes back into the services that the Y offers our community.”

The YWCA is contributing $1.6 million towards the project in land costs, while the federal and provincial governments have both kicked in $3.95 million.

The remaining capital will be secured through private financing with the help of the Town, which passed a motion in January to work with the YWCA to support the project through a loan guarantee and access to better borrowing rates through the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.

The $8.8 million housing project envisions using shipping containers to build a three-storey building that will provide affordable rental housing for up to 78 residents.

The project is expected to meet net-zero targets for energy efficiency and be completed before the end of 2019.

Photo by D'Arcy Norman