December 17, 2016 12:44 am

Mayor Don Iveson ‘encouraged’ by federal-provincial cooperation on affordable housing

Mayor Don Iveson speaks at a press conference at which the Alberta government and federal government detailed funding for affordable housing initiatives in Edmonton. Dec. 16, 2016.

Global News
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Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he was “really encouraged by the cooperation we’ve seen so far between these two orders of government” at a joint press conference held by the federal and Alberta governments Friday to announce how money is being directed into affordable housing initiatives in the province’s capital.

READ MORE: Ottawa and Alberta offer cash to maintain affordable housing units

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Federal Minister of Infrastructure Amarjeet Sohi was joined by his provincial counterparts in outlining how their joint $18.3-million investment would repair and upgrade existing social housing units for seniors and low-income Edmontonians.

While the money is being spread out among over 30 different local housing initiatives, Capital Region Housing Corporation is receiving the largest chunk of investment, to the tune of over $7.2 million.

“There’s a huge backlog of work, particularly in the Capital Region Housing Corporation inventory,” Iveson said. “So some of the most vulnerable Edmontonians who rely on that housing — families, indigenous families, immigrant and refugee families — will see their units finally get the investment that they need.

“I think that if the housing is dignified, it’s a more dignified life for vulnerable people and that contributes to their success which is in all of our interests.”

“With the combined efforts of our partners, we are giving a hand up to Albertans in need, and in doing so, we are contributing to the economic and social well-being of the entire community,” Sohi said in a statement.

Iveson also noted some housing projects were coming to the end of their “useful life” and pondered whether they should be torn down and rebuilt to either include more accessible design features, higher energy efficiency or other characteristics that would benefit residents in different communities.

“We can actually start to get quite creative with the inventory of units and land that we have if we know that there’s a sustainable and predictable commitment from senior orders of government, and that’s what we’re starting to see with these announcements for maintenance,” he said.

“And it’s what I’m hoping — and all the big city mayors are hoping — to see on an ongoing basis through the national housing strategy and the provincial housing strategy.”

READ MORE: Housing is unaffordable and in need of a $13B federal fix: cities

Iveson, who chairs the Big City Mayors’ Caucus, has long been calling for increased funding for affordable housing in Edmonton.

READ MORE: Homeless Edmontonians meet with mayor to discuss housing crisis

The caucus is made up of the mayors of Canada’s largest cities and has a stated goal of partnering “with the federal government in nation-building through city-building.” The mayors have called on the federal government to create a national housing strategy by dedicating funding for affordable housing, making a commitment to ending homelessness, increasing support of new and affordable housing, encouraging construction of more rental properties, creating housing funds aimed at northern and indigenous communities, reviewing the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s mandate and looking to “innovate for sustainable solutions.”

“Many housing units in Edmonton are in disrepair,” Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson said in a statement. “That’s why our government is taking action by investing in renovations so Edmontonians have a safe and affordable place to call home.”

The funding for Friday’s announced investments will be sourced from the Social Infrastructure Fund, a two-year federal and provincial agreement “to help Albertans in need access affordable housing.”

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The Notley government had also previously committed to investing $1.2 billion for affordable housing capital needs over the next five years through the Alberta Jobs Plan.

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