Housing to be significant part of Calgary Olympic & Paralympic plan

JAMES WOOD  Updated: August 29, 2018 – Calgary’s proposed hosting plan for the 2026 Winter Olympics would leave a significant legacy of affordable housing, says the chair of city council’s Olympic assessment committee.

rundlehall044-copyRundle Hall at the University of Calgary which was once apart of Olympic Village in Calgary on Tuesday August 28, 2018. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Evan Woolley said he can’t provide details at this point, but when the plan is released at a Sept. 10 council meeting it will include a great deal of information about housing possibilities.

The city is looking not only at transitioning a potential athletes’ village but also other Olympic sites into affordable homes, said the Ward 8 councillor.

“A legacy is a significant component of my support and of council’s interest in potentially hosting a Winter Olympics,” Woolley said Friday.

“A big component of that legacy is the potential for affordable housing. There’s a whole number of different ways we are looking at that, whether it’s regeneration of existing units or building new.”

Woolley said the idea only makes sense, noting other cities such as Vancouver, which hosted the 2010 Winter Games, have transformed event facilities into housing.

The Town of Canmore, which would host some Nordic events as part of a Calgary Olympics, has already proposed developing an athletes’ village that would house up to 1,200 athletes and officials.

After the games, it would be converted to 240 units of affordable housing. The increasingly expensive mountain town has set a goal of adding 1,000 affordable housing units, said Canmore chief administrator Lisa de Soto.

“Our community’s No. 1 priority to address is affordability and access to affordable housing,” she said Friday. “That’s council’s No. 1 issue and has been for many years.”

The proposed village is on land owned by Canmore and already planned for affordable housing, but Olympic cash would accelerate the process, said de Soto.

Both Canmore and Calgary want to leverage federal and provincial funding for the Olympics to kickstart housing development.

“The opportunities of potentially hosting a Games allow us to execute on our own long-term municipal goals in a much shorter period of time,” said Woolley, noting there are 4,000 people on the waiting list for social housing in Calgary.

“We are a city that has struggled to build a few hundred units here and there over the years.”

It’s not clear whether Ottawa and Alberta will require some facilities to transition to housing as part of their potential funding allocations but Woolley said the issue is on their radar, as well as the International Olympic Committee’s.

“The opportunities around affordable housing have been of significant interest to all three levels of government as we’ve been having these conversations,” he said.

The hosting plan presented next month will include capital budgets, operational costs and details of sport and venue concepts. However, it won’t contain information on provincial and federal funding levels.

The NDP government has promised to make public its financial commitment to the potential Winter Games at least 30 days before a Nov. 13 plebiscite, unless council scraps the Olympic bid process altogether on Sept. 10.

The province wouldn’t comment directly on its interest in affordable housing linked to the Olympics, but in a statement said it wants to see facilities put to use after the event is over.

“As the bid process continues to unfold, the province will analyze and consider any legacy plans to repurpose or reuse existing facilities for Albertans if future funding to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games is to proceed,” Marion Nader, press secretary to Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda, said in an email.

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