Sept. 15, 2021 | Tyler Difley
Leading candidates share vision for housing at CREB® Mayoral ForumThe leading candidates to replace Mayor Naheed Nenshi shared their vision for the future of real estate and housing in Calgary earlier this week at CREB®'s Mayoral Forum. On Sept. 14, CREB® welcomed Jyoti Gondek, Jeromy Farkas, Jeff Davison, Jan Damery, Brad Field and Grace Yan for a rousing discussion of the most pressing real estate issues facing the city.
After opening remarks, the forum's moderator, political strategist and commentator Aleem Kanji, posed several questions to the candidates, covering topics that included property taxes, downtown revitalization, housing affordability and new communities.
On the subject of property taxes and Calgary's beleaguered downtown, both Davison and Yan emphasized the importance of attracting new people and businesses to the city.
"In a world where capital and talent are very mobile, we need to be better there if we're going to attract talent and opportunity to the city," said Davison. "It's about investing in growing our tax base, not our tax rate."
Meanwhile, Farkas and Field both zeroed in on City spending, with Farkas promising a four-year property tax freeze.
"City hall's budget is a problem of its own creation," said Farkas. "I believe that we need to live within our means just like any family or businesses. When you have less money coming in, you need to spend less money."
Gondek referenced the City's Greater Downtown Plan as one potential solution to rising property tax rates that is already in motion, but also said the current tax split between the municipal and provincial governments needs to change.
"If our provincial government truly wants to help our city recover, we can't be sending 40 per cent of the taxes we collect up to them without any kind of an indication of transparency or accountability of where that money is being spent," she said.
Damery advocated for an East Village-style revitalization of downtown to make it a "24/7 neighbourhood" before going on the offensive against Gondek, Farkas and Davison, arguing their records as councillors show none of them "deserve a promotion."
"In my history, past behaviour is a very good indicator of future behaviour," she said.
When the conversation shifted to housing affordability, Farkas called for market-based solutions and less government intervention, criticizing the current council for initiatives like the Guide for Local Area Planning (formerly, the Guidebook for Great Communities).
"One of the best ways that we can keep Calgary affordable is for city hall to get out of the way," he said.
Davison suggested a partnership between the City and CREB® to help council better understand the housing market and endorsed an affordable housing model of one-third subsidized housing, one-third partially subsidized housing and one-third market housing.
Gondek said there needs to be a greater focus on helping those looking to move from subsidized to market housing, adding the current terms of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s mortgage stress test make that extremely difficult. "If you are eliminating the credit-worthiness of consumers, you're taking affordability away from them," she said.
Field mentioned his support for the housing-first approach taken by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, but said additional supports are necessary to make sure the newly homeless and those at risk of homelessness don't continue to fall through the cracks.
In response to a question about the approval process for new communities and the City's relationship with developers, Field emphasized the importance of a strong partnership between both parties.
"Developers and homebuilders in the city of Calgary provide jobs in the city of Calgary, they create revenue in the city of Calgary, they pay taxes in the city," he said. "We have to learn to respect that and work with them as partners."
Gondek said the City's off-site levy bylaw is designed to make sure growth pays for growth, but the current model fails to fully mitigate the risk the City takes on with greenfield developments. She also said the City hasn't invested enough capital to cover the redevelopment needs of established communities looking to grow.
"Established communities deserve to have improvements to public transit and public realm, but we simply haven't been budgeting appropriately," she said.
Both Damery and Yan acknowledged the high cost of urban sprawl but said the City should take a more hands-off approach to its dealings with developers. "The role of government is to provide certainty, so businesses can do what they do best," said Damery.
Field, Davison and Farkas all argued that Calgarians should be able to choose where they live, with Farkas promising growth "up and out" and Davison advocating for a mix of inner-city densification and new suburban communities.
"We know young people want to live in a vibrant downtown, but we know some families want a backyard, and we should be able to balance that choice," said Davison.
A full recording of CREB®'s Mayoral Forum is available here.
Tagged: Calgary | Calgary Real Estate | Calgary Real Estate News | Calgary Real Estate News | City Council | City Council | City of Calgary | CREB® | Feature | Jeff Davison | Jeromy Farkas | Jyoti Gondek | Mayor Naheed Nenshi | Mayoral Forum