The City of Calgary recently released a report on housing in Canada’s big cities, and in it noted that Calgary has a severe shortage of purpose-built rental housing in numbers falling well below that of other big cities in the country. Despite high vacancy rates, many Calgarians are priced out of both the existing rental market and the home ownership market, with the Canadian Rental Housing Index showing almost 40% of all Calgarians paying more than 30% of their monthly income on rent and utilities. A healthy spectrum of housing supply is critical in supporting affordability and this means our city has a pressing goal of “getting to average” in terms of meeting the national level of affordable housing.
Given our mission over the last 38 years of creating inclusive communities through mixed-market rental housing, we believe that NHA has an obligation to do as much as it can to provide more affordable housing in Calgary. We know that affordable housing is an issue for thousands of Calgarians who are homeless and the tens of thousands who struggle each month to stay housed. We are excited and committed to do as much as we can, with the help of our partners, to increase our contribution to the affordable housing landscape in Calgary.
In 2017, Norfolk Housing Association proudly became mortgage free on five buildings in the Hillhurst and Sunnyside area of Calgary. This financial reality, combined with the fact that the organization has maintained the quality and integrity of its’ buildings with significant capital investments, means that Norfolk is in a position to expand.
With all of that said, we are thrilled to announce that the first steps have been taken, through the acquisition of an additional building right here in the Hillhurst and Sunnyside area. The new building aligns with our promise to find creative ways to serve families, with a healthy mix of 1 and 2 bedroom units in a community with access to the amenities that matter – transit, schools, daycare, grocers, and walking paths.
Norfolk’s model works because we focus on building healthy residencies and long-term relationships with all residents. Market residents support community and inclusiveness by spending their rental dollars at Norfolk and creating an opportunity for those dollars to be re-allocated to other residents. We work with various partner agencies that support successful and inclusive housing who refer non-market residents to us and work to provide social services as necessary. This focus on long-term relationships supports a sense of home and belonging, which prevents people from falling into homelessness.
With the new building, and in keeping with our strong belief in the right to home, the organization will absorb the tenancies of the new building and support a very natural movement of residents toward a mixed-income model, versus imposing immediate requirements. We are committed to continuing, first and foremost, to housing current and future residents in a quality and long-term focused approach, and to continue to provide opportunities for ALL residents to meet their needs, whether by engaging with our social services partners or with the larger community.
We are very grateful for the support of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) who partnered with us over decades to provide low interest mortgages, which has facilitated our current financial health. Additionally, we are forever grateful to our Board of Directors and members for their vision, unity, and support in getting more persons and families in Calgary adequately and appropriately housed without delay, and for their passion and commitment to NHA.
But this is just the beginning for Norfolk. Later this year we will be launching a portable housing benefit to support families pursuing skills training and post-secondary education who may be unable to access subsidized housing but struggle to pay market rents. Additionally, we are interested in exploring partnerships and purchasing more purpose-built properties so please get in touch if you have ideas for us. Together we can work together to get – and keep – more Calgarians successfully housed.
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