The Town of Bow Island has partnered with the non-profit Rural Development Network (RDN) to develop around 19 acres of municipal land as it looks to address housing issues. According to Mayor Gordon Reynolds, the municipality has been struggling to attract and retain employees, especially young people and families. With rental options almost never vacant, the chance everyone can afford the cost of buying a home is slim.
“We are really lacking in attainable housing, especially in rental units,” said Reynolds. “It’s making it difficult to attract workers, for the town itself as well as certainly a lot of our businesses.”
Some staff come from nearby southern Alberta communities of Taber and Medicine Hat, but that commute isn’t always appealing.
“It’s not always the greatest drive, and people don’t want to be doing that all the time,” Reynolds said.
In comes the Enabling Housing Choice project. Run by the Sustainable Housing Initiative through the RDN and funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the project looks to improve housing diversity in rural communities across the province. “The land use study will be looking at the Westview Lands parcel in Bow Island, and we’re going to determine how it can be best developed to meet the needs of the town of Bow Island and its residents,” explained RDN project intern Courtney Nguyen.
In working with Bow Island, they will give recommendations for the build-out of land through land use study and engagement strategy. “We obviously don’t have the in-house expertise to determine what those should look like,” the mayor said. Nguyen said they’re finishing the research and environmental scan phase. Bow Island is one of the first municipalities to be involved in the the Enabling Housing Choice project.
“The engagement part is really crucial in these types of projects, because we are making these communities and the land use study for the residents,” Nguyen added. Bow Island has a population of approximately 2,100 people.