Last week, Westwinds Communities held an official grand opening for the Drake Towns affordable housing complex.

Among those in attendance were Alberta's Minister of Seniors, Community, and Social Services, Jason Nixon, Agriculture Minister and Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson, and members of Okotoks Town Council including Mayor Tanya Thorn.

The 10-unit housing project, constructed by Partners Development Group, includes two and three-bedroom units with rental rates ranging from $826 to $1,550 a month, with a priority for women fleeing violence. 

The $2.6 million project included funding from the Government of Alberta's Affordable Housing Partnerships Program, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Affordable Housing Fund, the Town of Okotoks, and Westwinds Communities.

According to a release from Westwinds Communities, these new units increase their affordable housing options by 22 per cent.

Mayor Thorn spoke to the importance of this kind of development for the town.

"I'm pretty passionate about affordable housing, I do believe in housing for all, and the addition of these 10 much-needed below-market housing units in our community is integral. It's been over a decade since we've last added units to Okotoks. We've grown a little bit in that timeframe... As we reflect on the statistics where housing costs in Alberta rose by 32 per cent in the last five years while median household income in Okotoks increased only by 0.7 per cent, it underscored the pressing need for attainable housing solutions. In fact, one in six households in Okotoks cannot afford rent above $1,463. We also know that the rising cost of living and the influx of new residents into Alberta is also affecting affordability. It's anticipated that the demand for affordable housing in Okotoks is actually much higher than what was reported in the 2021 federal census. This is why housing projects like Drake Towns are so important. There's a clear need for below-market housing in Okotoks and we are grateful to everyone involved in making today possible."

Drake TownsMinisters Nixon and Sigurdson were provided a tour of the of the units by Westwinds Communities' CAO, Lauren Ingalls.

Minister Nixon applauded the collaboration between multiple levels of government that made the project possible.

"We're going to have to continue to look for unique processes like we have here, where the federal government, the local municipality, a housing authority, and the province come together to be able to create projects that work for that community and work demographics within that community that they're trying to target. This project is an example of that, where government comes together, and we succeed."

Sigurdson shared the sentiment, stressing the importance of this kind of project to address the needs of those most heavily impacted by housing inequality.

"When we come together, multiple levels of government, it makes these projects quicker and faster and they do end up being designed to meet the needs of the community... This is an impactful project. Many more, I hope, in the future. I know when it comes to building these facilities for seniors, families, individuals with low income, or individuals with special needs, or those who are victims of violence, I'm pleased to see that projects like this will allow them the opportunity to have a safe place to live. I know, and always believe in my heart, that bringing this type of project into our community is always what makes this area the best place to live and raise a family."