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Muni exploring public-private models to address housing gap

Peter Shokeir |

The Municipality of Jasper will consider public-private models to help overcome the shortfall of available housing units for both seasonal and full-time residents.

Bonita Craig with Colliers presented four potential delivery models to council during its committee of the whole meeting on June 14.

The housing gap is estimated to be 687 units and would grow to 980 units by 2042, assuming three persons per unit.

In Craig’s report to council, the first option identified for addressing this gap is a public model where Jasper funds and develops housing.

While this gives Jasper greater control over affordability and design, this requires significant upfront capital, assuming development risk and the capability and capacity to secure funding, plan and oversee construction.

“Under this model, there’s no guarantee that new units would be occupied,” Craig said.

“Our numbers certainly suggest there is demand but there’s certainly an inherent risk, and that financial risk does lie with Jasper.”

The second option is similar to the first, except businesses that are directly impacted by the current housing shortage would guarantee occupancy through a long-term contract with Jasper.

The financial risk to Jasper depends on the negotiated rental rate.

In the third option, the private sector funds and develops housing and Jasper guarantees occupancy, but the report noted it may be difficult to secure a private partner willing to lead in a financing and development role.

The final option is leaving housing to the private sector.

“It’s kind of just the idea of let the market do its thing, and that’s not happening (to produce affordable housing), and there’s still a housing gap, as far as we can tell,” Craig said.

The report recommended the second option as the most “sensible.”

Under this option, the Jasper Community Housing Corporation (JCHC) may need to be restructured in order to enable more options for partnership between the public and private sector.

Mayor Richard Ireland noted how more than 400 units had been added to the market between 2016 and 2021.

Some of these units were from the co-op model, where there was a municipal loan guarantee but no other commitment.

“I would say that’s a viable option, so long as you find someone who wants to do that,” Craig said.

“You’d want to bake it into long-term affordability requirements, obviously, and co-ops kind of inherently do that usually in those membership agreements.”

Later in the meeting, the committee directed administration to identify the resources required to produce a strategy to address the housing gap.

The committee also directed administration to review corporate structures that would enable JCHC to assume debt independent of the municipality while also being able to provide some manner of equity in return for capital contributions.

“I do see the need for us to move the corporation forward and to have an opportunity for the corporation to start seeking other ways to be able to finance and promote housing in the municipality,” said Coun. Ralph Melnyk, who made the motion.

As well, the committee recommended that council receive the JCHC Governance Review for information and acknowledge 687 units as reflective of a reasonable estimate of Jasper’s 2021 housing gap.

Ireland made an additional motion for administration to attempt to co-ordinate a workshop to further review the report.

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