Pincher council to investigate hiring housing adviser

·4 min read

Pincher Creek town council continued its discussion on housing from August’s committee of the whole meeting during its Aug. 21 regular meeting. Central to the conversation was a recommendation from administration to look into hiring a housing strategic adviser.

The adviser would be someone who has professional training and experience, with networking connections and a capacity to build up and implement a community housing action plan.

Although the town has seen some success in applying for supports like the Sustainable Housing Initiative, economic development officer Marie Everts said having an adviser with housing expertise would accomplish more work more quickly than town staff could currently do on their own.“That project will touch base on a lot of the pieces, but we’re still doing it off the side of our desk instead of being able to focus on it,” she said.

“We will still go ahead with the SHI project, however I feel it could be more impactful if we have someone with more time to dedicate to helping get the information to the SHI project and tying all the pieces together.”

While the money needed to potentially hire a housing adviser was not included in this year’s budget, CAO Laurie Wilgosh said moving ahead with requesting quotes is something the town could do right now to secure badly needed housing.

“It could be brought to the budget deliberations in the fall to identify the funding and how much we’re looking for — however, we could get a quicker start on it if council was to make a decision sooner rather than later,” she said.

Coun. Sahra Nodge said an advantage to securing an adviser is that they would be able to clarify what an effective housing plan could look like to address a problem as multifaceted as housing shortages.

“I don’t even know if we know what the project would be,” Nodge said, “but developing some scope for this goal and then having an informed discussion about if this is going to be something that could advance the development of housing of whatever variety in Pincher Creek [is necessary] because I do think we need to do something different than we’re doing right now because this has been such a contractible problem.”

Despite the value of hiring an adviser, Mayor Don Anderberg said, the municipality needs more of a plan and a more clearly defined relationship to the Pincher Creek Foundation instead of expecting a new hire to provide all the details.

“The provincial government has made recent announcements around housing, and so has the federal government,” he said. “If those funds are going to flow through to the Town of Pincher Creek for our usage, one way or the other they're going to flow through that housing management body.”

Though grant money from higher levels of government could fund the position, having an adviser in place with concrete plans would strengthen both applications and the actual use of funds, said La Vonne Rideout, director of community services.

“What we really need to do is set ourselves up so that when the federal and provincial monies start coming out we actually have things in place to be able to hit the ground running,” she said. “Our concept of having this person is to be able to make sure that we’re placed to be able to do that.”

And even though the town has administrative organizations in place to look for solutions to housing issues, Rideout said a dedicated adviser with experience and expertise is what the town needs now.

“We have a way bigger housing issue than just affordability. That’s the piece that when we’re looking at hiring this person or contracting this position out, it's not just looking at the affordability piece, it’s looking at it globally,” Rideout continued.

“We actually need someone who’s on the ground, who’s actually being able to look at this from that 40,000-foot [view] and be able to get things going, whether it means trying to find contractors who might be willing to come into our community, it’s about trying to make our community look more attractive, all of those pieces.”

Council decided to direct administration to develop a housing project outline, the centrepiece being the collection of quotes for a housing strategic adviser. Once those proposals are received, the matter will be brought before council again to determine if hiring for the position will actually go ahead.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze