A little incentive can go a long way.
That’s the idea the Town is working with as it sets up grant funding to encourage developers, builders and residents to invest in below-market housing like purpose-built rental units and secondary suites or accessory dwellings.
The Below Market Housing Incentive Grant provides $15,000 “per door” to developers who undertake rental unit projects that include up to 25 per cent affordable housing units, while the Secondary Suite and Accessory Dwelling Grant will reimburse homeowners who build or improve units half their costs, up to a maximum of $5,000.
Okotoks has been focused on combatting its lack of affordable housing over the past three years, working with non-profit organizations like Westwinds Communities and Rowan House Emergency Shelter (for its transitional housing), and developing a plan of action under the guidance of its Affordable Housing Task Force.
Changes to the land-use bylaw have made it easier for residents to apply for development permits and think about building suites, but the cost may have still been prohibitive.
Similarly, developers struggled to come to grips with building units and not recouping costs if they were designated as affordable housing.
With grants in place to help cover some of those expenses, it may be more palatable for developers to include affordable housing in their neighbourhoods, and for residents to take on renovation projects to create new suites or bring existing ones into compliance with building and fire safety codes.
As always, money talks.
Earmarking $200,000 per year for affordable housing projects is a stride in the right direction as the Town tries to tip the scale and provide more affordable housing options for its residents.
Sometimes getting over the cost hurdle is all it takes, and Okotoks has dangled a tempting carrot at the finish line.