Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

"New projects pitched to ease Fort McMurray housing woes"

New projects pitched to ease Fort McMurray housing woes

By The Canadian Press - For Business Edge
Published: 03/07/2008 - Vol. 8, No. 5

The Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corp. is looking to get into the land development business to alleviate Fort McMurray's housing crunch.

The municipally-owned, non-profit corporation presented a proposal to regional council last week for developing two areas of Fort McMurray north of the Athabasca River.

Wood Buffalo Housing chairwoman Ravi Natt and president Bryan Lutes say the idea would provide up to 4,000 affordable housing units in Fort McMurray by 2021.

The corporation would act as a "land tract co-ordinator" and would form a for-profit corporation called Newco where the sole shareholder would be Wood Buffalo Housing.

Natt says the Alberta government would have to forego revenues of $120 million on the land and would need to build a ring road to prevent traffic congestion.

But she says if the province doesn't release the land by this spring, the regional housing shortage would reach a crisis level by 2010.

"We are asking regional council to endorse this proposal," said Natt.

Council voted to form a partnership with the province's Oilsands Secretariat with the intention of creating a government of Alberta and municipal project planning team to oversee and co-ordinate all land release.

Initially, council was skeptical about the housing corporation's ability to secure the development of a ring road and other transportation infrastructure from the province.

Lutes told council that Newco would develop the land at eight hectares per year over the next 12 years, allowing for lots to be sold to private developers.

The developers could then expedite the process of providing municipal services to land, which would in turn keep housing costs low.

"In doing this, we reduce upfront costs significantly," said Lutes.


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