Sparwood sees affordable housing as a priority

The District of Sparwood is making strides in creating a community that offers affordable and appropriate housing.

The District of Sparwood is making strides in creating a community that offers affordable and appropriate housing to meet the needs of all of its residents.

In 2011, the Districts of Sparwood and Elkford teamed up to begin a Housing Need and Demand Assessment for each community. The project gathered input from citizens, business owners, and interested stakeholders through interviews, online surveys, discussion forums, and focus group meetings. A final report was drafted last year, and Sparwood mayor and council met in January to create an overall goal and prioritize strategies to work towards it.

The results of that session were brought forward to a council meeting on March 4 for approval, in the form of an Affordable Housing Strategies report. With a goal of providing ‘appropriate housing that meets the needs of all residents of Sparwood within their individual means’, the document outlines the District’s four strategic objectives; to prevent the loss of existing affordable housing, to make better use of existing affordable housing assets and resources, to encourage the development of new affordable housing, and to build additional community capacity to promote affordable housing.

“In achieving these strategies we will be doing work in changing policies and regulations that is going to tie it all into the community,” explained Manager of Planning Nelson Wight. “We will be doing that through other initiatives throughout 2013, the OCP review, and possibly a design bylaw review.”

The report focuses on meeting the housing needs of specific target groups, including first-time homebuyers, low-income renters, seasonal and temporary contract workers, seniors, and special needs populations.

“The big thing with any study like this is we don’t want it to sit on the shelf,” said Wight. “If we’ve gone to the effort of doing all this work we want to see some outcome. That’s why we’ve done some really good work in identifying the strategies and laying out before [council] where you guys think we should focus our efforts from a staff level.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the report. District staff will now begin the process of developing a plan to implement the identified objectives and strategies.