Council hears next steps for affordable housing project

·3 min read

Jasper Municipal Council heard an update about a proposed project to construct 40 affordable staff housing units during its Feb. 16 regular council meeting.

The units would be located along Connaught Drive, west of the Petro Canada gas station.

The Municipality of Jasper is working with the Jasper Community Housing Corporation (JCHC), the business community and Parks Canada to make the project a reality.

Plans have been worked on since 2016 when the JCHC decided to take action on such a project because of the ongoing accommodation shortage in town, and how the lack of staff housing affects businesses’ abilities to operate.

Colliers Project Leaders was hired by JCHC to help with advancing the project and has been focused on the housing project concept, the grant development and submission.

Chris Timmons with Colliers Project Leaders told council the goal is two-fold: to define the scope of the project and to determine the cost to do the work. He said the complex will be “ready for occupancy in mid-2022” if all goes well.

Administration will bring forward recommendations on site servicing to the Feb. 23 council committee of the whole meeting. At that time, council will provide direction on whether administration should take the next steps forward on either servicing one, two or all three sites.

If council chooses to move forward on all or some of the lots, additional steps and approvals will be required. These would likely include borrowing bylaw to finance the project, hiring contractors to carry out the construction and what amount of the utility service costs should be assigned to the other parcels.

The JCHC is waiting to hear if their application for a Rapid Housing Initiative Grant is successful. The grant is for the onsite project. If the grant doesn’t come through, the JCHC has to take a different approach.

The municipality will also have to finance an additional amount towards the construction of the apartment. Currently, the figure is about $2 million. A decision about this will return to council after word is received about the success of the grant application.

Outdoor Skating Rink Policy

Council approved an Outdoor Skating Rink Policy, which will ensure municipal outdoor skating surfaces are maintained in a reasonably safe condition for the protection of the public and to mitigate liability for the municipality.

“This is a great start,” said Coun. Bert Journault regarding the new rink at Robson Park. “Winters are long. It’s Canada, it’s outdoors, this is long overdue.”

He added an outdoor rink is an affordable option for residents.

Coun. Scott Wilson suggested “putting picnic tables closer by for putting on skates, and a couple of shovels so people can clear the snow or the ice that gets chopped up.”

Coun. Rico Damota noted having an outdoor rink increases the variety of attractions in town.

“It does add some vibrancy to the community,” Damota said. “It’s a great thing for people to get outdoors and be physically active.”

Emergency Coordination Centre update

Chief administrative officer Bill Given gave council an update from the Emergency Coordination Centre.

Over the last two weeks, the number of active COVID-19 cases rose from three to six.

“It is a reminder that we all need to continue to be vigilant, particularly recognizing that we’re in the first phase of the re-opening,” Given said. “We all need to ensure that we’re entering this new phase of the re-opening with renewed vigilance about our own personal behaviours, that we’re masking and not stretching the bounds of what the province has allowed.”

Three-digit crisis line endorsed

Council endorsed the 988 crisis line initiative that was passed in the House of Commons in December 2020.

The goal is to have the three-digit suicide prevention hotline available across Canada. It would be a consolidation of all suicide crisis numbers into one easy-to-remember hotline.

In council’s motion, administration was directed to provide a letter confirming the resolution to Yellowhead MP Gerald Soroka, who had sent the request to the municipality.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh