ACCA and ARDN Partner on Co-operative Housing Initiative

By Alberta Co-operative and Community Association (ACCA) 

Co-op housing is an essential piece of the housing continuum in Alberta and Canada. However, as government subsidies continue to dwindle and current co-op assets face increasing maintenance costs, a number of units are threatened.

ACCA is proud to be partnering with the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) on a research initiative to develop a better understanding of the current successes and challenges in co-op housing. This project will assess the financial needs of current co-ops, research solutions, and put forward recommendations for new co-op housing models such as the Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops (LEHCs), land trusts, and other models.

There are three main activities as part of this project:

  • Consult with current co-op members, real estate professionals, and industry stakeholders
  • Research and review applicable models and feasibility studies
  • Dissemination of findings through education and recommendations

When the project is complete, the team expects the following outcomes:

  • Recommendations to help bolster the co-op housing supply in Alberta
  • Define potential housing employment opportunities to help develop housing co-ops
  • Provide Alberta co-ops with the tools and resources to help navigate their rental/governance models
  • Introduce new housing models to developers and communities.

Would you like to help with the research?

To help develop a better understanding of the current successes and challenges in co-op house, we are inviting existing co-op housing members or anyone interested in the research to complete the Co-op Stakeholder Engagement Contact Form.

 

The Story of Inclusio – Accessible Housing (Calgary)

Submitted by Accessible Housing

Accessible Housing is a non-profit organisation and registered charity, which helps open doors to homes that are both accessible and affordable for people with limited mobility, a growing population with unmet needs in the province of Alberta. Recognising a need in the community for increased mobility-restricted and cost-effective housing, the Accessible Housing Society undertook the development a 45-suite home known as Inclusio.

Inclusio is located in the community of Capitol Hill in Calgary, Alberta. It is the first building of its kind designed to serve those with limited mobility not only in Calgary, but also within the province of Alberta. Inclusio features 45 studio suites, shared common living spaces and laundry rooms available on each floor, a central dining room (designed to offer three meals per day, seven days per week), and wellness room (complete with a therapeutic tub). Residents also have access to an enclosed parking garage (with parking stalls wide enough to accommodate specialised vehicles), as well as on-site administration, maintenance and housekeeping services.

Through the initial design, development and operation of Inclusio, Accessible Housing gained a great deal of knowledge about not only construction design and development but also additionally, how the services provided integrate in the most useful way for residents within the building design. Through a generous grant provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Accessible Housing has been able to gather this learned information and share the story of Inclusio with many stakeholders. 

Further understanding of the needs that less than 3% of affordable housing units in Calgary are accessible; 58% of adults with disabilities in Calgary have incomes under $30,000 per year provides opportunity to reach out to government and other agency stakeholders to create plans for strategy and collaboration to fill a greater and increasing need.

 

The benefits realised through the building of Inclusio have been significant. Not only for residents but family members as well as staff working with residents each day.

While supportive living is not a new concept in the realm of housing the uniqueness of Inclusio is, as it was purpose built to support residents with limited mobility.

The success of Inclusio can be summed up best by comments shared from residents:

  • “Allows us to go out into the community and feel safe and comfortable”
  • “The supports we received offer us the ability to contribute to society (working/volunteering) and to offer what you can back”
  • “Has given me a sense of hope, purpose and fulfillment”
  • “Has helped reduce the feelings of uncertainty you feel when disabled”
  • “My mom sleeps at night now not being worried to get a call that I have fallen and need help”
  • “Accessible is not in the business of building places, they are in the business of saving lives”
  • “I have so much I want to do and I feel like I can do it now!”
  • “I was very isolated and depressed, now I have started to live”
  • “My mom took a vacation for the first time in 10 years”

 

The ability for Accessible Housing to tell the story of Inclusio and share learnings will continue long into the future thanks again to the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF). Together, we are creating opportunity that empowers people, and emphasises the importance of a more accessible Alberta.

To learn more about the important work Accessible Housing is doing visit our website www.accessiblehousing.ca.

Evict Radon Update: UCalgary research finds short-term radon test kits are not effective in measuring radon gas exposure

For immediate release: As awareness increases about the health danger of radon gas, more people are making the decision to test their homes for the deadly gas. A University of Calgary-led study finds the only reliable way to measure exposure to radon gas is with a long-term testing kit, which takes readings within the home for 90 or more days.

“Radon gas levels can fluctuate wildly day to day,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Oncology and member of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).  “Short-term tests can give a false sense of alarm, or worse, a false sense of security as they cannot precisely predict long-term exposure.”

Researchers placed two test kits, a short-term (five-day) and long-term (90-day) in the same homes. Tests were conducted during summer and winter months. Findings showed the short-term kits were imprecise up to 99 percent of the time when compared to a long term test.

Radon is a known carcinogen. Health Canada lists radon as the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The gas is naturally occurring, colourless, and odourless. It can accumulate to unnaturally high and dangerous levels in homes. Health Canada has promoted the use of long-term testing kits for some time.

“Our recommendation was based on research from international authorities including the US and Europe,” says Kelley Bush, manager, radon education and awareness Health Canada. “This research is critical because it provides Canadian data that confirms the value of long term testing.”

Goodarzi has also been working with the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) to educate realtors against using short term radon kits for real estate transactions.

“RECA is appreciative of the assistance provided by Dr. Goodarzi in the development of education enabling real estate professionals to advise buyers and sellers to take radon into consideration during the purchase and sale of a home, in the absence of reliable short-term testing,” says Joseph Fernandez, director of education programs at RECA. “All real estate professionals have completed radon related education and new professionals will be required to complete it before entering the real estate profession.”

The findings also show the Prairies are home to the second highest radon exposed population on Earth. The pan-Canadian scientist and physician led Evict Radon research initiative is now recruiting participation from all Canadians. The research is aimed at gathering as much data as possible to understand and ultimately defeat Canadian’s exposure to radon problem.

“We need to know exactly what factors influence high and low radon in Canadian homes. It’s not just in the Prairies, we know of high concentrations in areas throughout the country,” says Goodarzi. “This is easily one of the most preventable forms of environmentally-caused cancer. We have already learned so much from the work we’ve done in Alberta and Saskatchewan to test for and mitigate radon. We plan to build on that.”

In addition to the data gathered on short-term testing kits, Goodarzi’s team was also able to get a better understanding of how the size, design and age of home are related to radon gas exposure.

Findings are published in Scientific Reports.

This research was supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Alberta Cancer Foundation, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Robson DNA Science Centre Fund at the Charbonneau Cancer Institute.

Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, holds the Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure disease. Evict Radon represents a confederation of Canadian Scholars with expertise in radon biology, architecture, population health, geology and communications.

Learn more about the Evict Radon campaign, and sign up for research study radon kits at http://www.evictradon.org/.

Find the full media release here.

 

Media Contact

Kelly Johnston
Sr. Communications Specialist
Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Kelly.johnston2@ucalgary.ca
403-220-5012

About the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is a global intellectual hub located in Canada’s most enterprising city. In our spirited, high-quality learning environment, students thrive in programs made rich by research, hands-on experiences and entrepreneurial thinking. Our strategy drives us to be recognized as one of Canada’s top five research universities, engaging the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university’s Gaelic motto, which translates as ‘I will lift up my eyes.’ For more information, visit ucalgary.ca/eyeshigh.

For more information, visit ucalgary.ca. Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary. For details on faculties and how to reach experts go to our media centre at ucalgary.ca/mediacentre.

About the Cumming School of Medicine

The University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) is driven to create the future of health. We are a proud leader with seven world-class research institutes and 2,900 students, as well as faculty and staff, working to advance education and research in precision medicine and precision public health, improving lives in our community and around the world. Visit cumming.ucalgary.ca and follow us @UCalgaryMed.

Resiliency through Industry Partnerships

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Highbanks provides subsidized, safe and affordable housing along with some other supports for 11 young families in Calgary. With funding from AREF, Highbanks is hiring real estate consultants to explore and develop creative partnerships with landlords, property owners, builders and developers. The aim is to work together to come up with creative ways to provide affordable housing for young single mothers, fill vacancies in market rental housing and build resiliency in the community.

“We are really excited to start thinking about how we might address the huge need. The money from AREF allows us to think in non-traditional ways about how we might be able to expand our reach,” says Krista Flint, the executive director at Highbanks. “We are really keen to break down the paradigm of ‘We need a capital campaign and we need to build something else,’ because there are so many wildly innovative models for spaces for social good and we’re really excited to lead that thinking in our sector.”

Highbanks helps young mothers and their children who are homeless, at risk of being homeless or leaving profoundly traumatic situations. “We provide a housing first model with a focus on education and everything we do is sensitive to the deep trauma most of our girls have experienced,” she says. The mothers, many of whom haven’t finished high school, are required to go to school full time. Over the last 15 years, many of the young women that Highbanks has helped have gone on to get post-secondary diplomas or degrees.

Highbanks puts on community events and provides workshops and classes on parenting, coping and stress strategies, financial literacy, nutrition and life skills. A registered social worker refers women to other agencies and supports. It costs about $35,000 a year to help each family— an investment which Highbanks estimates saves taxpayers about $650,000 in publically-funded social services costs.

“We work very closely with organizations concerned with homelessness in Calgary. At any given time, we have about 30 young moms on our waiting list seeking help,” Flint says. “About 97 per cent of the young women who leave us go on to pay market rent and in some wonderful cases, own their own home.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Understanding Behavioural Environmental Design Contributors of High Radon Exposure to Protect Canadian Health

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer— after smoking— and the invisible, odorless, radioactive gas may be lurking in your home. AREF is supporting Evict Radon, an awareness campaign that encourages homeowners across the province to test their houses for radon gas while also providing data for researchers who are looking for a solution.

“We want to educate people about the effects of radon gas and encourage as many Albertans as possible to test their homes while also gathering data for medical research,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and lead of the Western Canadian Prairie Radon Study.

Radon occurs naturally when radium in the soil and rock breaks down. Goodarzi and his team have detailed radon gas analysis from more than 11,000 homes across Alberta and Saskatchewan. They found a staggering one in six houses contain hazardous levels of radon.

“We now have radon readings from all across Alberta and other parts of the prairies,” says Goodarzi. “We know that homes with higher square footage have higher radon. However, there are still several unknown home metrics that are contributing to high radon.” They’re trying to determine the “X factor” about why newer houses have higher radon than older houses.

The researchers are aiming to test more homes in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat and rural parts of Alberta. The best time to test for radon is during the winter. “That’s when we spend more time inside, and due to the cold, our homes are sealed up tight — the perfect conditions for radon exposure,” says Goodarzi.

People order a $60 Evict Radon test kit at evictradon.ca. They put the device in the lowest level of their home where they spend more than four hours a day and leave it there for at least 90 days. They register their device online, enter the start and end dates and fill out a short home metric survey. After the 90 days are up, the homeowner sends their device to the lab for analysis. They’ll get their radon level within a few weeks.

Radon occurs in areas all across the country. It’s the primary cause of lung cancer diagnosis in 10,000 to 40,000 Canadians every decade. And every day, an Albertan is diagnosed with radon-induced lung cancer despite never having used tobacco.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

New look of Pembina’s New Energy Economy Map

It’s been over a year since the New Energy Economy project got its start, premiering at the 2017 Alberta Climate Summit. The goal was to share stories of Albertans taking hold of the energy evolution well underway in the province, and in less than a year it has made amazing progress.

Today, the New Energy Economy Map has over 200 projects, each having broken ground after 2012. They have published more than 20 stories and profiles about these projects and the people who make them happen — touching on renewable energy, efficiency, education, transportation, clean technologies and more. The map is always growing, with new stories published every week.

 

Affordable homes is a dream come true for two Albertan families

Owning a home is so much than acquiring an appreciating asset – it’s a source of pride and new tie to the community. You could see the emotion on the faces of all four families that benefited from new Habitat for Humanity homes in Strathcona County. On a sunny July 27th, four families were handed keys that started new chapters in their lives. Two of the four homes were supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the REALTORS® Community Foundation and the Government of Alberta. The County of Strathcona also played a key role with significant contributions to all the homes.

Jay Freeman, Chair of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), said of all the worthwhile projects that the Foundation supports, Habitat for Humanity is one of his favourites. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony he said, “With these projects we can see, in a very concrete way, how our small contribution is benefiting.” The families moving into the new homes couldn’t agree more. Both parents and children spoke about how owning a home will make a difference to them and their families. One of the new owners named Clodia said, “Owing a house means stability and security, but also it means I can be a good role model for my daughter.”

 

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Habitat for Humanity believes in giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Habitat Homes are built by volunteers and donors and sold to qualified families. Those who are approved to receive a home must agree to work 500 hours at the build site in place of a down payment. Habitat holds the mortgage interest-free and amortizes it over as many years as necessary to ensure the families do not pay over 25 percent of their income for housing.

Affordable housing is one of the Foundation’s areas of interest for projects. It often partners with Real Estate Boards across the province, such as the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton, to match their donation and double the impact in communities across Alberta. Habitat for Humanity is a deserving partner as it serves families that are low to moderate income and offers them an innovative financing option. The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is proud of its contribution to this great event and join with others in welcoming these four families home.