August ' 08 Newsletter

Town Council News

August  2008                                                                        Volume 3, Issue 3


Housing Needs Critical in Athabasca, Creative Solutions Sought

The recent Athabasca Housing Needs Assessment Study confirms what many residents have suspected: there is a desperate need for housing in the community and options are needed to fit a variety of scenarios.

Equipped with a detailed report, Town Council and other concerned members in the community are reviewing alternatives and encouraging creative solutions.

“We’ve got the details from the consultant,” confirms Pat Barr, Director, Community Economic Development. “It gives us a good grounding of what is needed.”

Solutions may not necessarily be easy to put in place, she notes, but the potential for alternatives does exist. Athabasca Town Council is prioritizing the issue.

“Town Council is really trying to come to terms with the issue,” says Pat.

Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell points out that rental housing is definitely at a premium and while it is not the only housing concern, it does stand out as the most immediate need.

“Our most critical need is rental housing, but we need a general mix,” she advises. “We are exploring what is possible and what we can do.”

The list of possibilities includes:

-          New apartment buildings

-          Secondary suites in existing homes

-          Entry level housing – economically priced homes suitable for young people or young families coming into the community for jobs at schools, Athabasca University or Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, for example

-          Low income housing

-          Near-market housing – housing that is slightly below market value

-          At Home In Athabasca - an interactive housing needs awareness program proposed by Joan Veenstra, member of the Community Economic Development Committee, designed to link interested parties together and produce specific housing solutions

Colleen adds that the Town may also be interested in pursuing options and ideas regarding Town land in relation to addressing housing needs, and “green” options may be considered as well.

“Given the costs of everything, we have to explore all kinds of options and have to look for creative solutions to these issues,” says the Mayor.

Pat Barr notes that the apartment and rental survey conducted by the Province each year will be beneficial in adding to the information base. The survey examines rental costs and vacancy rates across the province.

“It will be available in October and will give us a sense of what has changed,” says Pat. “It will give us some direction.”

She notes, too, that since the Athabasca Housing Needs Assessment Study was done, 24 new condominium units have been built.

Still, there exists a need for additional housing and accommodation solutions and another impending program with great potential, she says, is the At Home In Athabasca program proposed by Joan Veenstra.

“It’s about tapping into people that might just want to rent a room, or provide room and board,” explains Pat.

At Home In Athabasca

Joan Veenstra is enthusiastic about the At Home In Athabasca program.

“We’re putting it together and trying to create a website where landlords and tenants can meet,” she advises. “We’re looking for creative housing in our community.”

In addition to being a meeting place for interested parties, the website will also provide, or link to valuable sources of information and insight, including:

-          Residential Tenancy Act

-          Landlords Rights and Obligations

-          Funding availability for new potential rental units

-          Legal contracts and relative information

-          Other housing initiatives, for example, Habitat for Humanity, Rural and Native Housing projects, Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Programs

-          Other information, for example, The Homeless and Eviction Prevention Fund program, Women’s Shelter, etc.

Joan hopes to see the website active by the end of August.

The At Home In Athabasca proposal is not advocating the construction of new housing.

“Most people who talk about housing are thinking about rental units, not market housing, and for that reason my proposal attempts to address the rental situation in unconventional ways for the short term,” she states in the proposal.

“My proposal is mainly about mobilizing the town and surrounding area to come up with their own creative solutions to the problem of housing, whether it addresses just one or all of the primary or secondary needs (as reported in the Athabasca Housing Needs Assessment Study) and to help individuals realize the potential that we have as a community.”

One goal outlined in the proposal is “to bring into the rental market 20 new prospective places for people to live in the short term. They may not all be conventional rental units, but more likely room and board situations, single room or housekeeping rooms or seasonal rental units. This is the equivalent of one small new apartment block.”

Community-wide input is being encouraged, and volunteer participation in the project is welcomed.  For more information, contact Joan at 780-675-2840.

Development Updates

One of several development projects underway in Athabasca and new to the community, this Canadian Tire small market prototype store will feature an automotive centre, garden centre and a Mark's Work Wearhouse.

The Town is a-buzz with a number of active development projects. Some are obvious as their form and structure begins to take shape. Others are still in the planning stages.

Doug Topinka, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Athabasca, provides a brief update of some of the projects currently on the go:

Canadian Tire - New

-          Small market prototype store featuring an automotive centre, garden centre and a Mark’s Work Wearhouse

-          Located between 48 Ave. and Hwy. 55

-          Construction on schedule and proceeding well

-          Shell is up; roof being installed; interior work and ground work for parking lot proceeding

-          Employment applications are being received (contact info at construction site)

Days Inn - New

-          Hotel accommodation

-          Located directly east of Canadian Tire

-          Construction is on schedule

-          Foundation is in and base grading for parking lot is done

-          Framing is expected to be complete by end of September

Athabasca University - Expansion

-          Located on University Drive, west end of town

-          Funding confirmed

-          Development permit issued

-          Official sod-turning anticipated this fall

 Wood Heights Subdivision – Development in Process

-          Located north of Hwy. 55, down Wood Heights Road (34 Street)

-          Land cleared; some lots staked out

-          Town presently working with developer to establish a servicing agreement and a development agreement

 Sale of Old Community Centre and Land

-          Located corner of 48 St. and 49 Ave.

-          Local business in process of purchasing

-          Letter of Understanding complete

-          Legal paperwork for sale of land now being completed

-          Announcement from new owner will be forthcoming

 Pleasant Valley Lodge – Renovations, Upgrades and Expansion

-          Located 52 St. and 47 Ave.

-          Governed by the Greater North Foundation

-          Increasing to 56 living units from 37

-          Existing living units to be upgraded

Major upgrades are in store for Athabasca's Pleasant Valley Lodge. 
Renovations are expected to begin this fall.

Athabasca Town Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan offers some additional details about the Pleasant Valley Lodge project.

“The architects are working on the drawings, full time,” he advises. “We’ve interviewed and hired Keller Construction Ltd. as the project manager.”

Construction is expected to begin in the fall and work will continue through the winter months.

“It will take about nine months to a year,” says Lionel. “Hopefully, it will be finished by next fall.”

When all is said and done, Pleasant Valley Lodge will be about 95 per cent new and the living units will be about double in size. Fifteen of the 56 living units will be available as life lease units.

Lionel explains that life lease units are self-contained living units that allow seniors to live independently, but within a retirement community setting. The right to occupy the unit is purchased from the housing project sponsor, in this case, Greater North Foundation. When the occupant(s) no longer has use for the unit, it is then sold back to the housing project sponsor.

“Life lease units are self-contained and have a stove, fridge, washer and dryer. Seniors in those units can contract Greater North Foundation for housekeeping or laundry or food services. If they want, they can join others in the lunch area.”

He notes that a benefit of the life lease option is that it provides a single point of entry to the assisted living community and a more comfortable transition, should the need for greater assistance develop.

The cost to residents for life lease units is not yet available at this early stage of the project.

Athabasca Regional Multiplex - Summer Update

Since opening the doors this past spring, the Athabasca Regional Multiplex continues to be a focal point for sports activities and social events in the community.

Here are a few scheduled items to watch for as summer begins to wind down:

-          Aug. 22, Summer Programs for children, final events

-          Aug. 25-29, Canadian Trinity Hockey School, youth and adult

-          Aug. 27, Drive In Movie night, Narnia - Prince Caspian showing, $5 per person, $20 per carload

-          Aug. 30-31, 30th Annual Whispering Hills Country Music Association Old Time Fiddle Contest

-          Sept. 10, Annual Community Registration Night

-          Sept. 14, Terry Fox Run

For more information on these and other events and recreational activities at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex and in the community, phone 780-675-2967 or visit

Half-million in funding for Multiplex flooring, parking area

With thanks and recognition to the Province, grant funding has come through to finish the Multiplex flooring and the unpaved portion of the parking lot.

“We are receiving $500,000 from the Major Community Facilities Program,” relates Rob Balay, Manager of Regional Recreational Services. “Around $225,000 will go towards the flooring and about $275,000 towards paving the parking lot.”

The Multiplex parking lot will be done sometime between mid-August and mid-September when a paving crew arrives to do several scheduled paving projects around town.

The prep work for the Multiplex floor has already been done and the flooring will be laid sometime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1.

The purpose of the Major Community Facilities Program is to help Alberta communities plan, upgrade and develop large community-use facilities and places in order to enhance community life and citizen well-being. The program is funded by the Alberta Lottery Fund.

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