Alberta government unveils new $1.2B affordable housing strategy

Click to play video 'Alberta announces significant investment in affordable housing' Alberta announces significant investment in affordable housing
WATCH ABOVE: Over 110,000 people in Alberta currently live in government-supported housing. Thousands more are on a waiting list. Tom Vernon reports on a major announcement on Monday to improve affordable housing in the province – Jun 26, 2017

The Alberta government announced Monday morning it’s investing $1.2 billion in affordable housing over the next five years.

The province said the strategy will give the 110,000 Albertans living in government-supported affordable housing new tools to help stabilize their finances, find a safe home and build better lives.

The province said it received input from 1,800 tenants and housing providers before releasing the strategy.

It was built on exploring mixed-income models in affordable housing, making transitions into stable affordable housing easier and increasing asset limits of applicants from $7,000 to $25,000.

“Tenants tell me they want to get a better job and be able to save up for their family’s future. But the existing housing system isn’t designed for that and tenants risk losing their home if they do,” Calgary Housing Company tenant liaison Tracey McLean-Schultz said.

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“These change mean we can begin to break the cycle of poverty.”

The government is piloting mixed-income models to allow tenants to pay an adjusted rent so they can choose to stay in their homes. Previously, tenants could be forced to move out of their homes when they got a better job that put their income slightly above the low-income limit, the province said.

In March, the province announced planning funds for 14 affordable housing projects throughout the province, which totalled just over $5.6-million.

READ MORE: Alberta government announces more than $5.6M in funding for affordable housing planning

The NDP said it planned to build or renew more than 6,000 affordable housing units over the next five years.

Of the 14 projects, five are in Edmonton and four are in Calgary.

The Seniors and Housing ministry said the planning dollars would assist the organizations in proceeding to the permit development stage, and included funding for scope and cost definition and feasibility studies.

READ MORE: Alberta changes rules for those applying for affordable housing

In 2016, the province changed a policy so that Albertans no longer had to declare their disability and education savings plans as part of asset testing rules. Seniors and Housing Minister Lori Sigurdson said savings plans won’t count toward the $7,000 asset limit for affordable housing programs.

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Capital Region Housing said it experienced a massive spike in applications for social and affordable housing in the Edmonton area from 1,200 in the fall of 2014 to 4,300 in March of 2016. CEO Greg Dewling said it was the biggest spike the group had ever seen.

Alberta was one of two provinces without an affordable housing strategy.