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Op-ed: A closer look at the housing gap

Peter Shokeir |

It’s no secret that Jasper has a housing shortage.

The Municipality of Jasper estimated that Jasper had a housing gap of roughly 687 units, and this gap is expected to grow to 980 units by 2042.

The municipality is now considering multiple delivery options for supplying more housing.

A consulting firm, Colliers, recommended to council earlier this month that Jasper funds and develops housing, while private sector partners guarantee occupancy.

What was glossed over in this meeting was why exactly this housing gap existed to begin with and why the private sector wasn’t able to supply housing on its own.

The simple fact is Jasper has a shortage of land to build on due to being surrounded by protected area.

Parks Canada is also responsible for land-use planning, rather than the municipality, resulting in a nightmare of regulations and bureaucracy that discourages any development and delays projects for months if not years.

Some of the existing rules further impede the development of more housing.

A height restriction, for example, keeps taller apartments from being created.

It could be argued that because private investment is discouraged by all these intractable issues, government involvement is necessary to address this shortage.

Nevertheless, any public-lead initiative will face many of the same challenges that a private developer would.

And is it really an efficient use of public funds to build more housing when the private sector would be more than willing to do it if the hurdles were cleared away?

Jasper may be one step closer to this as the municipality and Parks Canada have agreed to co-review the governance agreement.

One can only hope this proves fruitful.

Otherwise, a more expensive solution for taxpayers could be coming down the pipe.

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