If Calgary wins a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, the event could help solve one of Alberta’s most pressing housing problems.
Canmore, a town nestled in the Rocky Mountains about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, is the most expensive place to live in Alberta. The average price of a house is just under $700,000, and rent for a one-bedroom unit starts at around $1,000 per month, not including utilities.
The picturesque community, dotted with restaurants and cafes, is a popular stop for tourists. But for many of those earning minimum wage in the service industry, the only affordable home is a trailer.
The result: parking lots in town are crowded with workers living in camper vans. An estimated 100 people live in one of Canmore’s larger camper communities.
“It’s possible to work and pay rent but you’re just breaking even at best,” Connor Farquhar, who lives in a camper, told CTV News. “If you want to put any sort of money away, if you want to save for anything else than your rent and groceries, you need to find some sort of other means.”
To confront the issue, the Town of Canmore has proposed building an athletes’ village in the community capable of housing 1,200 Olympic competitors and officials in 2026. Once the Games wrap up, the village could be converted into 240 units for affordable housing.
The town council has not formally voted whether or not to join Calgary’s bid.
In the meantime, Canmore has removed signage in parking lots barring overnight parking and replaced them with ones that read “RV parking permitted.” The town has also installed a portable toilet.
Canmore does not have any temporary housing shelters.
The local problem is unprecedented, according to Lisa Brown with Canmore Community Services
“There’s more people living out of their vehicles than we’ve ever seen before,” Brown said. “If this is the reality of the situation, we need to look at ways to make sure everybody in Canmore is safe.”
Canmore was a host partner to the 1988 Winter Olympics, held in Calgary. The event helped create the community’s athletic venues, updated transportation systems and led to an influx in jobs.
A survey that included 303 Canmore residents found that 66 per cent agreed that the cost of the bid was worthwhile. Another 61 per cent agreed that the bid would benefit the economy, but only 9 per cent believed there would be a positive impact on the environment.
Calgary is competing against a handful of other cities to host the Olympics, including Stockholm, Sweden; Erzurum, Turkey; and Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
With a report from CTV’s Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks
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