YW Calgary is pleased that the City of Calgary approved changes to its existing base residential zoning after lengthy public consultations with community members. Our organization participated in the public hearings to share our support for the proposal, speaking to Council directly about issues YW’s clients face daily when seeking safe, affordable and appropriate housing to ensure they and their families have opportunities to thrive.  

The ongoing, and worsening housing challenge has had a direct impact on YW clients. In 2023, Calgary’s average rental cost increased by 14.3 per cent – the largest increase in rental cost in Canada. With a mere 1.4 per cent vacancy rate in the city, there are simply not enough homes available in Calgary.  

Women and children who come to YW for a variety of supports from housing to mental wellness, child and parenting resources or to grow financial and relationship skills, share the challenges of housing with our team members. Those who come to YW Crisis Shelter and YW Transitional Housing are staying with us for longer and longer. Even when women are ready to thrive independently and move out of our facilities the lack of available, affordable housing impacts their ability to make the transition.  

While YW has several supports in place to facilitate smooth transitions, including our housing navigators whose role is to support residents in finding appropriate housing options, women and families continue to struggle. For those who do not have access to this type of support, the challenge is even greater. 

As a result, YW believes it is imperative for all orders of government to move forward on policy actions that positively impact housing availability in the short- and long-term. This recent bylaw change to adjust how Calgary’s residential zoning works is a great example of a policy action that could result in growing Calgary’s housing inventory. This change reduces some of the red tape that was previously involved to build a duplex or fourplex on a plot of land currently zoned for single unit residential homes. Streamlining this process could facilitate building more homes on existing land, thereby increasing density at a pace the surrounding area can accommodate (for example, these zoning changes do not allow for apartment buildings to replace single unit homes).  

Making it slightly easier to build higher density homes won’t solve the housing crisis in and of itself but it is one piece of a much larger puzzle toward improving the status quo. In fact, the City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy includes 98 actions the City could take to address the current housing crisis. We look forward to the City of Calgary continuing to prioritize these issues. Simultaneously, YW will continue to engage with provincial and federal governments on ways all orders of governments can work with one another, as well as public and private partners to address housing availability and affordability with the goal to create a sustainable future where all can thrive.