A finalized report on the Drumheller Housing Strategy was presented to Drumheller Town council by Economic Development manager Reg Johnston during the regular Monday, April 3 council meeting.

 Along with outlining the Town’s projected population growth by 2031 and current housing market availability and challenges, the finalized report also identifies seven high priority actionable items which are intended for completion by 2025.

 The strategy projects the population of Drumheller will increase to between 8,846 to 9,032 people by 2031, an increase of about 1,000 people. 

 It also projects the total housing demand will increase by about 367 to 426 homes; an estimated 191 to 222 new units will be needed by 2026 to meet projected housing demands.

 One of the actionable items listed as part of the strategy was to encourage a diverse housing stock. 

 Many of the homes currently available on the market, while significantly lower in price than similar homes in larger city centres, are often 30 years or older and some require extensive renovations or repairs, making them not feasible for some prospective homebuyers.

 Diversification could also help to attract potential new residents to the community and target some challenges faced by current residents.

 Mr. Johnston explains the Town’s Land Use Bylaw (LUB) and Municipal Development Plan (MDP) allows and encourages secondary suites, and there are currently some incentive programs available to developers. This also includes incentives for site demolition for redevelopment purposes, and he says there are some Town owned sites where potential residential development could take place, including in the Elgin Hill and Hillsview Estates areas; there is also redevelopment potential at the old hospital and consortium, along with the former Nacmine Hotel, all of which were recently demolished in 2022.

 The strategy identified that about one in four households do not have acceptable housing which meets their unique housing needs, and about one in five households struggle with affordability. This issue is further compounded due to low rental vacancies, which limit choice for residents to find suitable housing for their needs.

 Seniors also face challenges finding affordable and acceptable housing as they look to downsize, but still remain living independently. While seniors may be able to access housing through the Drumheller and District Seniors Foundation, such as units at Manors I and II, vacancy can be a challenge. It is estimated there will be a need of about 165 homes for senior-led households by 2026.

 Compounding vacancy and affordability issues are the addition of short term and vacation rentals in the community. While these units are beneficial for the tourism sector, by offering alternative lodging options aside from hotels and campgrounds, it also places additional pressure on the existing housing market as it removes potential long-term rental units from the market.

 To help regulate these types of units, Mr. Johnston presented council with a briefing note in February 2023 proposing to implement a Short Term Rental bylaw.

 As of October 2022 there were a total of 98 short term rental units listed in Drumheller.

 Another issue the Town is working to resolve is accommodations for seasonal and temporary employees. Existing short term rental units are not necessarily geared towards people temporarily working and living in the community, and long-term rental units also do not necessarily fit this niche, either, as some require lengthy leases exceeding the employee’s contract.

 Mr. Johnston shares the Town is currently working with its partners regarding the possibility of a home share solution, similar to companion housing company Happipad which helps connect hosts with people looking for a short term living space.

 Regulating short term vacation rentals and securing housing for seasonal employees are both anticipated to be complete by the third quarter of 2023.

By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, DrumhellerMail.com

Original Published on Apr 19, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   The Drumheller Mail   Drumheller, Alberta

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