Prairie provinces pave the way: Affordable housing initiatives in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba

September 25, 2023
Big Block CEO Alex Miller at the YWCA.

Canadians need housing now, and prairie provinces are offering initiatives that offer support to community-minded organizations that want to provide affordable housing solutions. With the federal government announcing plans to remove GST from eligible purpose-built rental developments effective Sept 14, 2023, and striking Housing Accelerator Fund deals with the City of Calgary and other local governments, Big Block CEO Alex Miller expects more bold action to follow at the provincial and municipal levels.

“There are a lot of moving pieces to make non-market and affordable housing developments successful,“ says Alex. “A strong project leadership team has to come together for the project owner, and it needs to align with multiple levels of government – the city, the province, and the feds – the community-based organizations, and the private sector.”

Alex says each stakeholder has an opportunity to examine their own internal processes, and how they can streamline those processes to better align with shared outcomes for projects at the local level.

“In the pre-development and design stage of any new construction project, the project team and any government stakeholders must align,” he says. “It takes trust in one another and an integrated approach to truly make everyone’s internal processes work in the interest of the project and the community.”

That breadth of alignment is what Alex has seen help move housing projects along. “Alignment and accountability makes a big difference when it comes to building a healthy housing supply in communities all across the prairies, and all throughout Canada.”

Meanwhile, programs from the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments are helping to unlock new housing options for some of our most vulnerable people, and are aiming to make the prairie provinces more equitable when it comes to housing. 

Alberta’s Affordable Housing Partnership Program

Alberta's Affordable Housing Partnership Program (AHPP) forges alliances between public, private, and nonprofit entities to construct housing where it's needed most. Its scope is broad, encompassing various project types, from renovations to new constructions, all with a shared goal of expanding affordable housing options.

Part of Alberta’s Stronger Foundations affordable housing strategy, the AHPP includes mixed-use, social, and projects with owner-operators. Projects considered under this project include:

  • New construction.
  • An addition to or renovation of existing housing resulting in a minimum of five new affordable housing units.
  • Conversion of non-rental housing (such as a hotel or commercial space).
  • Redevelopment on an existing site involving demolition and new construction and resulting in a minimum of five new affordable housing units.

Eligible projects can expect funding up to a third of the full cost and contributions can be given in the form of capital grants, land or buildings, or transfer or long-term lease of a government-owned asset. The deadline for applications is October 16, 2023. 

Saskatchewan Co-Investment Program

Saskatchewan's Co-Investment Program (SCIP) invites many different types of organizations to apply, including private corporations, non-profit groups, co-operatives, Indigenous governments, and municipalities. 

Applicants need to demonstrate property management and development experience, and need to agree to enter into an operating agreement with Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.

Additionally, housing built with this funding must be rented to households that are at or below the Saskatchewan Housing Income Maximum-Low for a minimum of 10 years. 

If eligible, recipients will receive $27,000 per unit – with a maximum of $1 million per project – in funding for the repair or renewal of existing units or the construction of entirely new units. Applications are being accepted continuously pending funding availability. 

Manitoba requests proposals amidst election debates

Housing is a hot topic in Manitoba right now, with the issue dominating the election leaders’ debate on Sept. 12. All the party leaders see homelessness and affordable housing as challenges to be solved, and are putting their own spin on solutions.

While the Rental Housing Construction Tax Credit was discontinued in 2019, Manitoba Housing regularly issues calls for proposals and applications for various development projects, and currently has a request for proposals for Development of Social Housing Units at 575 Balmoral Street in Winnipeg with a deadline of Oct. 17.

The program aims to address the beleaguered Centre Village housing complex that was built in 2010 and has been vacant since 2019. The city is hoping to find an Indigenous organization to develop housing for this parcel. 

Shaping a brighter tomorrow

Each of these initiatives demonstrates a commitment to building intelligently and sustainably in the prairie provinces, taking the bold step towards a more equitable and resilient future. These programs strive to make a lasting impact on their communities, pushing productivity, and shaping a brighter tomorrow.

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