By Cole Parkinson
Taber and District Housing are looking for support on conducting a housing needs assessment and project feasibility study.
Tim Janzen, CAO for Taber and District Housing, had a chance to present their case to the M.D. of Taber during their regular meeting on Oct. 10.
The assessment work got started based on the fact that the government won’t get involved until it has been completed.
“The biggest thing we’ve got back from the government is their process starts with the housing needs assessment and really without doing it, they don’t want to talk to you. That is the first analysis that will say whether Taber and area merits something to happen in terms of do you need it and can you prove it. Then you need a little bit more work that needs assessment in terms of what do you need and how is your proposal going to address those needs. So our work with the Town of Taber came out about basically being approached by their planning and development office because they have been led to believe by businesses that come to Taber that one of the (issues) in Taber and area is a lack of housing. Or lack of housing available that would be affordable to the wage scale that employers expect to pay,” said Janzen.
The housing needs assessment according to Janzen is broken into two parts in order to get the best representation of what would be needed.
“The needs assessment is primarily two parts — there is a statistical analysis part. So you go out and get all of the Stats Canada information and demographics to work through things like how many are vacant there are to compare demand and supply. The hard part is likely the demand is in a different spot to where the supply is so can you change that? Maybe not. The other half of it is the dealing with people. Interviewing people who are at Clearview Lodge. What do you like about here, if you dreamt a change what would you like in the future? The time will come when these are relevant decisions to us,” said Janzen.
While Taber may be the main area looked at, they hope to include surrounding towns and hamlets as well.
“Just with the scope of the project, we did ask the surrounding towns and hamlets be included in that because there are available residents in those. That didn’t really fall into the Clearview Lodge scope, more of the community scope. That’s were the partnership with the town comes in,” said Tom Machacek, former councillor for the M.D. of Taber, who also presides on the Taber and District board as the vice chair.
While the needs assessment is phase one of the project, the other half is the project feasibility analysis which focuses on concepts for senior’s lodging and housing for single individuals and families.
The question shifted towards Taber’s Clearview Lodge and what the correct path would be in moving forward, whether it be demolishing and building new or renovating the current building.
“Clearview Lodge is the best place to build Clearview Lodge but the problem is there is already a lodge on that property. The best thing to do would be to knock the whole thing down. Knock it down and put all of the people back in, in the proper size building. The reality is nobody has figured out a way to stop time and I could not bring myself to tell you or the residents that we’re kicking them out for two years so they can have this great palace. We are essentially telling these people that we’re going to build this great palace but you’re probably not going to move back in to it,” said Janzen. “I think there may be properties that are big enough that you could put a brand spanking new facility on. The current people on some given date when it’s ready, would move in there. I know many of the buildings that are going on right now, they all had the decision of do we renovate or do we build new? In the end, almost all of them build new because it was about $1 million difference but eight months less construction time and you can actually have a building that is up to today’s code.”
Janzen says renovating would present many challenges if that was the route people would be interested in taking.
“I think everyone is terrified of a 60 year old building, you start tearing into it and now what? We would probably have to have five to seven phases where we build something and move people, build and move people. We would likely be a perpetual construction zone for three or more years. I think you lose a little bit of quality of life if there are power saws on the other side of the plastic wall.”
Rooms currently are 300 feet for studio and 350-400 square feet for 1 bedroom so Janzen says that they would have to look at turning two rooms into one or three rooms into two.
“My mom is at Clearview and you’re right. One of the biggest concerns there is the room size and while that room size was adequate 60 years ago, it’s probably not adequate anymore. I think you are right on the money, there needs to be a little more square footage,” said Bob Wallace, former councillor for the M.D. of Taber.
Another part of the feasibility analysis is looking at singles housing which Janzen says is challenging not only in Taber but in areas outside of Taber in the M.D as well.
“Outside of Taber you are looking at anywhere between 15 to 35 and 50 per cent depending on the year. Some years we’re full, some years we are virtually empty. Grassy Lake is a real challenge. Taber itself, community housing would be well under five per cent. In fact that would include senior self contained. The family housing right now, we have a wait list, I think the biggest thing that we notice is we’ve never kept the wait list on single people under 50 because there is nothing we can do for them. We have no one bed apartments, we actually have no barrier free units (handicap access), that seems odd,” said Janzen.
Budgets for both phases were brought up and discussion on how it would be paid for was had.
“We have met with a consultant group, we hope to still meet with another consulting group to get more sense of perspective but we did get a budget from them. The top end of the budget was $70,000 to do the housing needs assessment and the project feasibility analysis. That would probably be a stretch for Taber and District Housing reserves but the town was very keen on participating in the housing needs assessment. They made a request to move into the 2018 budget for $35,000 so they were willing to support half. I did indicate at the time that we weren’t interested in pitting people against each other, we thought that we would answer for both boards (M.D. and Town of Taber). We wanted to give the M.D. of Taber the opportunity to also participate,” said Janzen. “Our thought was that we would share a third, a third and a third.”
One councillor was more in favour of the Town of Taber footing a bigger bill due to the potential of greater impact on the town.
“Another thing is the third, a third and a third, I’m not in agreeance with that. I think it should be 50 for the town and 25 and 25 for us because the town is going to benefit the most,” said Ben Elfring, former councillor for the M.D. of Taber.
The study will include projections for up to 20 to 30 years from now and show what is needed for the different types of housing in the M.D.
“The one thing that I would be really interested in seeing is the terms and reference for the study because we’re talking about at least three significantly different types of housing. Labour force housing, social housing and seniors housing, the needs for all three are significantly different,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D. of Taber.
The council passed a motion to move forward with funding one third of the study.