Can $11.9M put a dent in Banff's affordable housing crunch?

Can $11.9M put a dent in Banff's affordable housing crunch?

Banff residents are hoping $11.9 million in funds promised by the province will help alleviate a long-standing housing crisis in the mountain town.

The money will cover 50 per cent of the cost to build 132 affordable housing units on Deer Lane. The remainder of the cost will be debt-financed by the town.

"They need it. There's a lot of people that come here, they work, they can't find housing," said resident Robert Awalt.

- MORE CALGARY NEWS | 'Now your snow season begins': Calgary hasn't turned the winter corner yet

- MORE CALGARY NEWS | Conservative lawyers say Wildrose and PC parties can merge funds but Elections Alberta disagrees

Awalt says rental rates in Banff are expensive and the project will help a lot of people who are struggling to find somewhere to stay. 

"They do what they can but if they had a place to live that's affordable, it would be a lot better," he said.

However, fellow Banff resident Erin Evans says she's skeptical.

"I think that it will be incredible if it works out," she said. "My hesitation is that the wrong people will get the opportunities to live there and the families maybe won't. Maybe it will be people that aren't staying that long."

Zero per cent vacancy

The town has reported a zero per cent vacancy rate for the past three years.

Banff National Park officials say they saw an increase in illegal camping last summer as a result of the affordable housing crisis.

The majority of employment in the town is in the service sector, where annual wages fall below $40,000 for 65 per cent of residents.

"Housing in Banff has always been a challenge," said Mayor Karen Sorensen. "I came here in the early 1980s, it was a challenge then. It's not a new problem but I'm just delighted with the progress this council has been able to make on this project." 

Construction is slated to begin this spring, and the units are expected to be move-in ready for fall of 2018.