Calgary homebuilders lead the way
The major impact they’re making on our city was honoured with the Philanthropic Group award at the 2015 Generosity of Spirit Awards on Nov. 13, 2015.
Alan Norris, president and CEO of Brookfield Residential Properties, is one of the 11 Visionary homebuilders, as well as chair of the RESOLVE Campaign. “There was never any question from my fellow nominees that supporting the community is the right thing to do,” he says.
It started when Norris approached his competitors with a simple idea: Let’s all pitch in to build some homes for the homeless.
“Alan spearheaded it,” says Scott Haggins, CEO of Cedarglen Living Inc. “He said ‘we can drive this, we can make a difference and make Calgary a better place ‒ let’s do it guys.’”
So they did.
Each homebuilder is pledging a Visionary donation which together with provincial funding will build eight apartment buildings of similar design in different locations around Calgary, as well as additional projects for homeless families and singles. The buildings will be managed by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and provide a range of social supports for the tenants by a partnering organization.
The first, Stepping Stone Manor in the Beltline, constructed by Cedarglen Living as part of its gift, will provide 30 tenants self-contained bachelor units.
The name has a double meaning, says Haggins. Not only is it a stepping stone to a better life for the tenants who will live there, but it’s also a stepping stone for his own sons and the younger generation of business people in Calgary.
“When my sons, Cole and Ward, started running Cedarglen Living, we discussed that helping the community is the price to doing business,” he says. “We are hoping the idea behind Stepping Stone Manor will really mushroom and other young business leaders will do things like this and make a difference in our city.”
In the summer, StreetSide Developments: A Qualico Company will use its gift to begin work on a similar building. An existing house on the site will be demolished to make way for another assisted-living apartment complex.
“We really liked the whole concept of RESOLVE,” says Glynn Hendry, Regional Vice-president of Qualico. “It fits into our mission to give back to the community in which we make our living, and we were very impressed that nine agencies were working together to blend their expertise.”
“I don’t pretend to understand homelessness, but we do know how to build houses,” he adds. “And these projects will take a significant bite out of the homeless problem in Calgary.”
With low vacancy rates driving up rents in Calgary, the need for more affordable, supported housing has never been greater. The lack of this type of housing infrastructure is the biggest obstacle to ensuring that the city’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness is a success.
“It’s the most important thing we can do right now for Calgary,” says Jay Westman, chairman of Jayman MasterBUILT and a member of RESOLVE’s Campaign Cabinet. “We know that once people have a place to live, with the right support, they can build productive futures. Our job is to increase the supply of housing that meets those needs.”
Inspired by the Calgary homebuilders’ lead gift to RESOLVE, other industries are following suit and supporting the Campaign. “The homebuilders have absolutely set the example of how individual companies can come together to make a gift as a group representing their industry,” says Sheryl Barlage, Executive Director of RESOLVE. “It really set the momentum for the Campaign.”
For Calgary homebuilders it was just the right thing to do: “We are extremely keen competitors as we continually challenge each other to improve the product quality and design of new homes for Calgarians,” says Haggins. “We are passionate about our businesses and industry, and when that passion unites, we become the force that will RESOLVE homelessness in Calgary.”[WRS slideshow_id=2318]