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Affordable Housing Task Force

Okotoks, like many other towns and cities, has a very tight rental market with low vacancy rates. Council appointed an Affordable Housing Task Force to provide recommendations on a long-term strategy  to increase affordable housing and create a more inclusive community for Okotoks. 

Council approved the Affordable Housing Task Force's recommendation regarding the definition of affordable housing in Okotoks

In November, 2018, the Task Force presented a number of recommendations to Council including:

  1. Enable the provision of more rental units through Secondary or Backyard Suites;
  2.  Create a tracking and monitoring system that quantifies the need, supply, and gaps; 
  3. Secure land opportunities for affordable housing.
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Meet the Affordable Housing Task Force
Shawn Rose - Chair

Shawn Rose is a born-and-raised Southern Albertan and has been a practicing Architectural Designer since 1984, the last thirteen years of which have been in his office in a heritage home on Elma Street in Okotoks.

His experience covers residential projects from RV parks, small & large custom homes, and large multi-unit complexes, as well as mixed-use residential & commercial buildings.

This work has required a deep familiarity with zoning and land use issues, in addition to practical building design, and the challenges faced by homeowners, builders, and developers in navigating their complexities.

Shawn has a passion for building simpler and smarter, and as the father of four sons between the ages of 24-34 experiencing the challenge of finding suitable housing in Okotoks, he was motivated to apply his experience in the field to this important issue that will affect the quality of life in this town for decades to come.

 

Tannis Andrejcin

Born and raised in beautiful Alberta, her children and grandchildren now follow and enjoy life in Okotoks. She has resided in Okotoks since 2002, and cares deeply in supporting the community.

As a real estate paralegal for 20+ years, followed by a career as a home builder and renovator and presently a professional Realtor since 2008,  housing as always been a priority. The basic need of a place to call HOME has always been front and center. As a Realtor, she has firsthand experience about the difficulties of home ownership with clients and friends as well as personally experiencing similar housing challenges with her own adult children. 

She has a strong desire to find solutions to fulfill this basic personal need - a HOME. Volunteering and working in a capacity that addresses the struggles, challenges and needs of the growing complexities to obtain suitable and affordable housing is very important to her and she feels fortunate to be a member of the Affordable Housing Task Force.  Giving back to her community is paramount, having volunteered for many years on several boards including Okotoks Chamber of Commerce, Post-Secondary Committee, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Economics Development Committee (past Chair).  Her passion lies in helping to ensure Okotoks is the place everyone can ALL call HOME.

Brigitte Baradoy

Brigitte has worked in the field of domestic violence for most of her 30 year career. In that time, she repeatedly witnessed the important role that safe and affordable housing has on a women’s ability to leave a violent relationship. Housing was usually the first step in women starting a new life and, without finding any, she often went back to the violent home.

As a result of the need and limited options, Brigitte became an advocate for affordable housing for all vulnerable populations. She has operated second stage shelters, developed unique housing models to address domestic violence in southern Alberta and presented on the topic at national and international conferences.

Brigitte has a B.SW from the University of Calgary and an M.B.A from Royal Roads University. The work of the Okotoks Affordable Housing Task Force is a natural fit with her interests and expertise. She is proud to serve the Okotoks community by being a member of this Task Force

Charles Boechler

Charles Boechler has been working as a development manager and industry advocate in the real-estate development industry in southern Alberta since 2001. 

In his roles, he has overseen stages for acquisition, planning, construction, sale, service, and assumption of residential communities for housing in six of the ten municipalities governed by the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board’s jurisdiction. As an idealistic member and active representative for the development industry, Charles sought to be involved as a member of the Affordable Housing Task Force. He is eager to assist in bringing forward impactful and practical resolutions to the Council that can help reverse this troublesome trend that is affecting the ability of growing families, seniors, and aspiring young adults to possess affordable shelter in Okotoks

Lauren Ingalls

With a background in economic development and a bachelor of commence, Lauren Ingalls has worked exclusively in the seniors’ housing and social housing industry for twenty-six years as the Executive Director with four different agencies ranging from 78 units to 1,500 units in the Calgary area.  In May 2011, Lauren joined Westwinds Communities as the Executive Director hoping to remain active in this dynamic industry while achieving more life balance with her growing family. 

Lauren joined the Town of Okotoks Affordable Housing Task Force to help our community be more inclusive and understanding of the diversity of affordable housing needs we have in Okotoks, and how by meeting those needs we will have a more vibrant and viable community.

Karen Neal

Karen Neal has lived in Okotoks for over 20 years and has three generations of family residing in the town.  Karen has served on numerous Committees; MPC, Culture Parks and Recreation, and the Active Transportation Committee and brings local experience and knowledge pertaining to Town processes and procedures.

She is interested in finding options/solutions for affordable housing for young adults and seniors so young adults can remain in Okotoks and seniors can age in place.

Marcia Reid

Marcia has a 22-year background of running a private manufacturing company, and the accomplishment of being one of Profits' Top 100 in Canada.  A credit that was achieved by offering special employment programs to persons with social and physical disabilities. 

In 2012 her parents retired to Okotoks, soon discovering that housing options for seniors were extremely limited.  Marcia left her second career in international business and accepted a position with BMO as a Mortgage Specialist so she could remain close to home and assist with her parents’ day-to-day needs.

Housing is the most expensive purchase or investment most people make in their lifetime and her position with BMO has provided insight into the affordability issues facing Okotoks’ residents.   Housing is a strong influencer to attract business and talent, allowing for communities to be self-sufficient and so all persons working in a community can feel a connection to it.  Having a variety of housing choices is a critical element to achieve this.

Self-supporting communities need to offer businesses and resources that meet residents’ values, and housing options are an essential part of this.  

Marcia volunteers for many organizations including most recently The Canadian Pony Club in various capacities and various business think tanks. She is especially proud to serve on the Task force, as the future is unlimited.

 

Dean Salter

Dean is a retired United Church minister, journalist, and author who has lived in Okotoks for 12 years.

His local church, along with many other religious communities in Okotoks, has been concerned with the lack of affordable housing in our town and its affect on individuals and families.

In 2017 his church sent a letter to Council, signed by 52 members, asking the Town to develop a strategic action plan to support the development of affordable housing in Okotoks.

He was very pleased and honoured to be selected as a member of he town’s Affordable Housing Task Force. He feels that by creating a strategic action plan the Town is taking a major step forward in addressing affordable housing both now and into the future.

An open, accepting, and inclusive community is a healthy community and  housing has a major role to play in making that happen for everyone.

Mark Watts

Mark was raised in Calgary and moved to Okotoks in 2000.  He has been in the Oil and Gas industry for the last 22 years and is transitioning to the world of craft beer for the last four years. 

In the last 19 years of living in Okotoks he has witnessed many changes, some good, some not, and can hopefully add the insight of a regular community member to the Task Force. 

He is at the point where affordable housing is becoming important on two fronts:  His children are getting to an age where they will be looking for something of their own, and his parents will eventually be looking to downsize to something affordable. 

He’s optimistic that several different approaches can fill the need for affordable housing in Okotoks.

The Okotoks story

The Task Force is collecting stories from the community to highlight the current affordability issues facing many residents and demonstrate the necessity to create an affordable housing strategy.

Service Organizations facing growing need

Submitted by Dean Salter

We’re just seeing “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to affordable housing issues here in Okotoks.

That’s according to Reverend Julia Kimmett, minister of Okotoks United Church. In the past two weeks, says Kimmett, she has connected with eight different families who are struggling and “it has everything to do with the fact there is no affordable housing here in Okotoks,” she said. “All these connections and the church isn’t even the front line in terms of providing social services.”

The stories are troubling. One woman has maxed out the money available in her RRSP just to pay the mortgage. Another has her daughter and two children living with her in a small space because they can’t find affordable housing. Women leaving abusive situations can’t find an affordable place to live. Young people are couch surfing. Families are crammed into basement suites much too small for their needs.

In October the local United Church spent close to $4,000 from its Benevolent Fund to help families make their monthly rent or mortgage payment and to help with food and gas expenses.

“But it’s just a stop-gap solution,” says Kimmett. “What about next month? There’s incredible desperation out there, an increasing lack of hope. Getting people to the end of the month is not solving the problem.”

“One person complained that ‘the government isn’t doing anything for us,’ says Kimmett. But she’s convinced the solution to the affordable housing crisis lies with all of us. There is a need for government and the private sector—non-profits, corporations, all of us—to work together to create a better living environment for everyone here in Okotoks.

 If we don’t create more diverse, more affordable housing the cost to individuals and the cost to everyone in terms of additional social services, mental health, and physical health issues will continue to be extreme. Our town has grown, says Kimmett. There are a wide variety of income levels for people working and wanting to live in Okotoks. But, sadly, the needed diversity of housing hasn’t kept up—and it must—for a healthy community.

Renters have limited choices

The Affordable Housing Task Force members have been speaking to residents throughout Okotoks to learn about the challenges people are facing to find a home. They are sharing these stories with the Okotoks community to demonstrate the growing need for more diverse, inclusive housing in the town.

Tannis Andrejcin, task force member and a local realtor, spoke to owners of secondary suites about the challenges they have seen for their tenants.

One landlord shared a story of a tenant who was forced to move her family to High River after a divorce. Both her son and daughter were enrolled in Ecole Secondaire Foothills Composite High School and took the bus from High River to Okotoks daily for school. In the fall 2019, they were informed there wasn't enough room on the bus for both kids. The mother had to drive her son to school until they found an affordable rental in Okotoks. By this time she was in a relationship where they had two incomes and could afford to rent a home in Okotoks.

Another property owner rents a main floor suite for $1500+ utilities. It is completely renovated with new floors, quartz counters, stainless appliances, and always has an abundance of people interested whenever it becomes available. The only other properties for rent in this price range are apartments or town homes.

The opportunity to have an entire main floor three bedroom, two bathroom home, with a large private back yard and a driveway to park in draws a lot of interest. The current tenant is a single woman in her 50s who has limited options for where she can live after a divorce. Her current financial situation does not allow her to be a home owner, for the first time in 30 years.

 “Okotoks is not as affluent as it once was, and I know many people selling big beautiful homes to move into smaller homes or even rentals due to circumstance,” said Andrejcin. “Rental demand is increasing as more and more people are unable to afford home ownership. This will undoubtedly cause rents to increase as well.”

Secondary suites are one option that provide affordable housing badly needed by young adults, those on a single income, and anyone who is experiencing financial constraints. It also benefits home owners who are struggling to pay their mortgages.

“At a time where many people are losing their homes to the bank with more foreclosures in 2019 than at any time other than 1987, Okotoks needs affordable rental options more than ever,’ said Andrejcin. 

Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Okotoks need more affordable housing? Isn’t there enough already?

While there is some affordable housing options in Okotoks, it does not meet current demand. More than two-thirds of the housing stock is single-family homes and the average price is more than $450,000, beyond the reach of many people. The recent changes in mortgage rules have made it even more difficult for many people to own a home.

Diversifying the types of housing options is also important. Not everyone wants to live in a large single-family home, based on the stage of their lives. Ensuring that there is a variety of choices will decrease the number of people who need to leave the community to meet their needs. These include small homes (less 1,000 sq ft) and housing styles such as bungalows, town houses and duplexes.

Currently Okotoks has approximately 400 duplexes, 1,500 condos and 7 multi-family rental complexes with a mix of town homes and apartments.

Why is Council considering investing in affordable housing?

In order to access funds from provincial and federal governments to support affordable housing, municipalities must demonstrate a willingness to share in this investment. This could include providing existing land, purchasing land specifically for affordable housing, offering financial incentives to developers or offering in-kind services to assist in affordable housing development.

Through many public participation activities, the community has consistently indicated that providing diverse and affordable housing options is a priority to create an inclusive community. A recent report identified Okotoks as the fourth least affordable place to live in Alberta and most of the current housing stock is single-family detached homes that many people cannot afford. We must invest resources to achieve Okotoks’ vision of an inclusive community with diverse housing options and a place where everyone wants to live,

Who needs affordable housing in Okotoks?

A wide variety of people, income levels and life stages from senior citizens to young adults and young families.