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Mayor Reynolds excited and optimistic about new housing developments with help from HAF

Posted on March 5, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Brylan Span
Commentator/Courier

Things are looking up in Bow Island in regards to the lack of available housing. On Feb. 19 it was announced that the town would receive $1,568,000 over four years from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

According to Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds “The timing of this has been perfect for us, we recognized that when we heard about the program last year. We have this need for that missing middle housing, multi-family, higher density housing, more rental type properties, something that could be more affordable by making them multi-family.”

As the Town brings in more workers, the lack of available housing has continued to bring challenges, says Reynolds. “We certainly have a need for family housing but definitely apartments and suites to accommodate our growing workforce. Our businesses are busy, in the public sector we have teachers commuting, we have nurses commuting, we have some of our own municipal staff commuting, because of the lack of that housing or even whether it’s attainable for them to buy, but even just to rent.”

At the town council meeting on Feb. 26, the Housing Accelerator Fund 4 Year Spending Plan was presented. The Town will be receiving $392,000 each year from 2024-2027. Some $450,000 will be going towards a “Housing Accelerator Initiative’’, $611,000 will be used for residential lot development, $40,000 will allocated for a new sidewalk for 3rd to 4th Street on 5th Avenue West, $440,000 will be put towards 6th Avenue West paving, $13,000 will be used for land use bylaw initiatives, and $10,000 will be allocated for an e-permitting software initiative.

An issue that has historically posed a challenge for Bow Island and other small communities, “is getting interested developers to come into a small community and do subdivisions or any kind of a major development, simply because the time it takes to sell those units or filling those units can historically take longer,” said Reynolds. That isn’t the case right now though, as there is lots of interest from builders and developers. Reynolds stated “we are in a position with demand that I think that payback is going to come much quicker than normal.”

Another reason that Reynolds feels like the funds came at just the right time is the fact that council was already planning on updating the land use bylaw. This update is a lengthy process that costs money, so the funds will help assist with covering the cost of that. Reynolds says that the update is about “making development easier, making things more clear in terms of what is allowed and what’s not allowed, actually creating some different zones to allow for some types of developments, some types of housing that we traditionally haven’t had. It’s just perfect timing actually.”

Reynolds gave lots of credit to the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Dave Matz for all he did in getting together an application that met the requirements to receive the funding. Reynolds said that council worked with Matz and provided their feedback, “but (Matz) put a lot of effort into this. It was a very lengthy complicated application, and I know some places just sort of almost gave up on it. They didn’t have the resources to get it done, which again is an issue for small communities. We don’t have a whole department of people sitting there that can do these things, it comes down to one or two people. Dave did a fantastic job to put this together. “

While Reynolds says that the town needed more housing and intended to change the land use bylaw anyway, with the help of the HAF “it means that we are not going to have to go out and use up a bunch of reserves or borrow money to make this happen. I think it’s a win for all of us as taxpayers and it’s just another piece in the puzzle of growing our community and moving forward.”

With Reynolds and council feeling optimistic and confident about achieving their goal of 60 new spaces over the four year period, the excitement is certainly there. “Suffice to say that council is excited about this, I think Dave and his team are excited,” said Reynolds. “We are just looking forward to seeing shovels in the ground once the weather breaks and get those pipes in the ground, and start getting some buildings going.”

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