5 Questions with: Canmore Community Housing

Our Series on Affordability and Housing in the Bow Valley

5 Qusetions With


It’s no secret that the Bow Valley is in a affordable housing crisis. It’s complicated, systemic, a local manifestation of broader forces and frustrating for many. Banff Canmore Community Foundation (BCCF) is interested in bringing diverse voices forward on the issues of affordability and housing in the Valley.

Through the Moving Mountains Initiative, we’ve heard that civil society is feeling disempowered about the affordability/housing crisis in the Bow Valley and eagerly looking for pathways forward.

Canmore Community Housing (CCH) is a non-profit corporation wholly owned by the Town of Canmore and operated as an independent organization. Established in 2000, CCH supports a more sustainable community by providing a range of housing that is appropriate for the community’s needs. Their work is done this through research, education, advocacy and the Vital Homes (previously called Perpetually Affordable Housing), Accessory Dwelling Grants, and Matching Down Deposit programs.

We connected with CCH’s Chair Rob Murray to examine the issue from a civil society perspective. Rob’s thoughtful answers provide a tactical and big-picture analysis of how we got here, what’s getting done and how the future is being imagined.

Rob Murray has been waking up the Bow Valley as the Morning Show Host at 106.5 Mountain FM for over two decades. He’s also a small business owner, running a mobile DJ company that primarily serves our busy local wedding industry. Rob is passionate about his community and the affordability challenges we’re facing, which led him to successfully apply to be on the Board of Directors for Canmore Community Housing in 2019. He took on the role of Chair in November 2022.


1 How is Canmore Community Housing (CCH) working to address the housing affordability gap? What’s CCH’s unique approach?


Rob Murray: CCH manages two streams of non-market housing, a home ownership program which currently consists of 157 units (and growing as I write this) across the town and a rental program which has 118 units, mostly in two buildings. We have eligibility requirements to ensure that people in these units are locals - that they use the unit as their primary residence and are employed in Canmore. The units are price-restricted, ensuring that the rentals are at below-market rates, and the for-purchase units are originally sold at a price that is attainable for gainfully employed individuals and families, with restrictions on future resale value.

We always have a lot of irons in the fire and are currently pursuing a number of other projects and opportunities to expand our portfolio so more locals can stay in our community in a relatively affordable way.


We always have a lot of irons in the fire and are currently pursuing a number of other projects and opportunities to expand our portfolio so more locals can stay in our community in a relatively affordable way."

~ Rob Murray

Rob Murray

Canmore Community Housing Chair Rob Murray

2. How does CCH currently collaborate and partner with the municipality, housing agencies, the housing industry, the business community, and other orders of government to carry out its vision, mission and mandate?

I would call CCH’s relationship with the municipality symbiotic. CCH is owned by the Town of Canmore, but we operate as an independent corporation. The Town makes land available for CCH to develop on and partially funds the organization.  In return, CCH delivers on projects to address that critical affordability issue. CCH is the best tool available in this community to address affordability on the housing side of things.

Our relationship with other levels of government is less direct, but we do work with the provincial and federal government and government organizations to access other lands and leverage grant funding.

We could not do what we do without the development industry and local businesses.  We obviously rely on the development industry to build our projects, and request that they utilize local trades and labour as much as possible.  We’re often able to add units to our portfolio based on negotiations a developer has with the municipality for a market project they’re hoping to build.  ‘You want this variance? Build X number of non-market units for CCH and we’ll talk’ kind of thing.

I think there are opportunities to work together with partners to better deliver on our mandate.  We’re working on some ideas on this front, and are always happy to hear ideas other individuals or organizations may have.

3. What could big picture success in the housing affordability crisis look like? How will we know we’ve turned a corner? How do we measure success?

This is a very good question, and one that we’re currently asking ourselves from an organizational standpoint.  Right now, affordability is the most critical issue facing our community, and access to affordable housing is right on the top of that list. Purchase prices have increased exponentially in recent years, pricing even people with professional-level wages out of Canmore.  Existing homeowners are cashing out on that equity, putting people who may have been renting those homes back into an expensive rental market. In the 21 years I’ve lived here, the situation is the worst I’ve ever seen it.  I’ve heard so many stories about friends, colleagues, and long-time community members who are being forced to leave town because they just can’t do this affordability dance anymore.  It honestly breaks my heart, and it’s the reason I’ve dedicated myself to this volunteer role as CCH Board Chair. I want to be a part of making a positive difference in the community I love and call home.

We’re doing what we can to address affordability in the space we operate, but can we be doing more?  We’re certainly not the only community in North America facing this problem.  What creative solutions have other places come up with, and how can we leverage those ideas in our town? What creative solutions can we come up with on our own? How can we deliver more, and better? We’re right in the middle of a visioning process to answer those very questions. In the coming months, we’ll be sharing the results of this process and putting it into action.

It all boils down to the fact that housing is a fundamental right, and at this moment that right is not being achieved for everyone in Canmore.  This is wrong, and it needs to change.  CCH is and will continue to be a leader in that change.


It all boils down to the fact that housing is a fundamental right, and at this moment that right is not being achieved for everyone in Canmore. This is wrong, and it needs to change. CCH is and will continue to be a leader in that change."

~ Rob Murray

4. We know land is very expensive. What are other systems-level obstacles that are holding things back? What needs to shift from a systems perspective to generate different outcomes?

One of the biggest challenges is that in Alberta, we have very little ability to force non-market housing in new developments.  Municipalities can negotiate these kinds of things through variance requests as I mentioned before, and through ASP/ARP (Area Structure Plan / Area Redevelopment Plan) processes, but that will only get us so far.  It would be lovely if the provincial government would make some changes on this front.  We only have to look to our neighbours in British Columbia to see examples of some ways this could be done.

Another obstacle that’s an unfortunate reality for Canmore is the costs of flood mitigation.  We saw in 2013 what can happen if we don’t properly protect housing developments from flood risks.  New developments in areas at risk of flooding require that level of protection, and those costs need to be recovered somewhere along the spectrum.

I sometimes hear knocks against our municipality, and our local elected officials, that they aren’t doing enough and that they don’t care.  I would argue that to be untrue.  Hindsight is always 20/20, and perhaps Town Councils of the past could have made different decisions that would have put us on a different footing to address this issue now, but there’s no sense dwelling on the past. What can we be doing now to set us up for future success? Based on my knowledge and conversations with Council members, they’ve identified the lack of affordable housing as one of if not the top issue facing our community and one that needs to be addressed urgently.

Municipalities only have so many levers they have the jurisdiction to pull, and I see them pulling as many of them as they can on this issue.  But I believe they’re asking themselves the same questions we’re asking ourselves as an organization – how can we deliver more, and better?

My impression is that there is currently the political will in Canmore to take bold action on affordability and housing.  I’m not sure what the totality of that will end up looking like, but it won’t be nothing.

5. Despite the incredibly challenging context, progress is being made. What are you most proud of?

The fact that we’re currently able to provide a stable, relatively affordable home to 275 individuals and families who live and work in our community. That’s 157 homeowners who aren’t stymied trying to qualify for an absurd mortgage and forced to leave our community. That’s 118 renters who never have to worry about their landlord raising their rents to an unsustainable level, or cashing out on their unit and forcing them to find somewhere else to live in our very-tight local rental market.

Is this a drop in the bucket compared to the need for this type of housing in our community? Absolutely. But we’re making a positive difference in our community, one housing unit at a time, and as an organization we have nowhere to go but up as far as our desire and ability to fill more of this need into the future.

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