A few things struck me at the public hearing on Monday, March 15.
None of the speakers in favour of the project live anywhere near it. It is easy to be in favour of something that costs you nothing. Before you ask the people living in the immediate vicinity to take a possible $20,000 to $30,000 loss in their property value, as the Gazette confirmed, you should ask yourself if you would be willing to do the same thing? I think the answer is a resounding no.
If this project will benefit St. Albert as a whole then shouldn’t the entire city share the cost? The neighbouring residents are being asked to shoulder an unfair burden for this project. The loss in property value is permanent. No matter what happens in the real estate market, those houses will always be worth $20,000 to $30,000 less than if those townhouses had never been built.
This has been billed as debate between the surrounding community and the city as a whole. Who is the real beneficiary? Supposedly it’s the thousands of families in St. Albert who need affordable housing. Where are these families? When the mayor asked Habitat for Humanity how many applicants from the last build were from St. Albert they initially said dozens, but when pressed finally said 21. How did the thousands who are supposedly in need of affordable housing become 21? Speaker Cam MacKay astutely pointed out where that figure comes from. It comes from everyone from St. Albert who filed a tax return whose income is too low to support a mortgage for the average house price in St. Albert. It does not consider that approximately half of the homes in St. Albert sell for less than the average price. It includes everyone who filed a tax return. This includes high school students with a part-time job and university students who live at home. Clearly these people are not in need of affordable housing. There are currently 37 condos available in St. Albert for under Apollo’s stated selling price of $250,000. If the need was so great you would think these condos would be snapped up in an instant, yet most have been on the market for two weeks or more. Why?
This project is costing the taxpayers of St. Albert $840,000, plus the loss in property value of the neighbouring residents for a total cost of over $1 million, all to benefit 21 families. Wouldn’t it be easier to take the $840,000 of tax dollars and give each of the 21 families $40,000 as a down payment on one of the 37 condos currently available? I recently read that governments never like cheap or simple solutions. That certainly seems to be the case here.
Randy Hughes, St. Albert