The Municipality of Jasper is looking for members of the public to help make headway on affordable housing in the community.
The Jasper Municipal Housing Corporation (JMHC) is recruiting board members. It’s an opportunity to advance the development of affordable housing and hit the ground running on work that’s been talked about for years, according to town staff.
“We’re no longer at the talking-about-it stage, we’re now at the doing-something-about-it stage,” said Jasper’s Municipal Housing Coordinator, Leanne Pelletier.
The call for JMHC board members has been precipitated by a significant restructuring in the organization’s governance. Formerly known as the Jasper Community Housing Corporation, establishing itself as a Municipally Controlled Corporation (MCC) will enable the JMHC to manage assets, take on debt independently of the town, and provide equity in return for capital contributions—critical elements of controlling its own destiny when it comes to developing affordable housing. Additionally, an MCC can partner with the private sector, Pelletier explained.
“The structure also allows the JMHC to develop housing without having to rely as heavily on grants,” she said.
That doesn’t mean the municipality won’t take grants where they can get them. In March, Jasper qualified for $6.5 million of funding from the Affordable Housing Partnership Program. The money will be used to help build a 40-unit apartment development on Parcel GC, in the 700 block of Connaught Drive. Council has committed $5 million to the project, and the rest can be raised by selling shares to private sector partners—something that wasn’t possible under the organization’s former structure.
“There’s more flexibility for business transactions,” Pelletier said.
With the framework of the JMHC established, the next step is to recruit board members. Councillor Rico Damota, who is one of two municipal councillors appointed to the board, said the positions give residents a say in how affordable housing moves forward in Jasper.
“It’s a good opportunity for public engagement,” Damota said. “It’s something that will have a big impact in our community.”
Once a board of directors has been established (deadline for applications is January 11), board members of the JMHC will be focussing on the flagship project at Parcel GC. Pegged at $22 million, the Connaught Housing Project will consist of 20 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units, and will be rented as affordable housing units, as defined by the province. Pelletier suggested the rents will fall somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of market rent.
“Those are the kinds of things the board of directors will be looking at,” she said. “They’ll be ensuring the viability of the project.”
The project isn’t a far-off pipe dream, either. A Request for Proposals has been issued; three proponents have been shortlisted for the build, with a submission due by the end of February.
“We are well on our way to seeing a shovel in the ground,” Pelletier said. “The goal is to be starting construction in the spring. It’s really exciting.”
Pelletier hopes prospective JMHC directors will envision a future that includes making a significant and enduring difference on an issue which Jasper has struggled with for years.
“When the project is complete and you’re walking down Connaught Drive and see the newly constructed apartment building, imagine the sense of pride you’ll feel realizing you played a pivotal role in bringing that vision to life.”
For background information on how the Jasper Municipal Housing Corporation was created, its business plan and how a Municipally Controlled Corporation works, have a look at the August 15, 2023 report that came to council.
Bob Covey // firstname.lastname@example.org