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Edmonton election 2017: Poll finds Edmontonians split on plans for affordable housing, LRT

City of Edmonton skyline, seen from Saskatchewan Drive on July 31, 2017.
City of Edmonton skyline, seen from Saskatchewan Drive on July 31, 2017. Global News

Two days before Edmontonians head to the polls to elect their new city council, numbers from a new poll suggest eligible voters in Alberta’s capital are split on how they want their politicians to address some key civic issues.

According to figures released from a Mainstreet/Postmedia poll on Saturday, more Edmontonians support the idea of having more social and affordable housing throughout the city than those who don’t like the idea, but those numbers change when respondents were asked how they would feel if more affordable housing was moved into their own neighbourhood.

READ MORE: Demand for affordable housing in Edmonton more than triples since fall 2014

Watch below: On March 17, 2016, Kendra Slugoski filed this report about the wait list for a subsidized home having more than tripled since 2014.

Alarming number of Edmontonians waiting to get into subsidized housing
Alarming number of Edmontonians waiting to get into subsidized housing

When asked about city council hoping to see social and affordable housing spread throughout the whole city – making up 10 per cent of all housing in every neighbourhood – 48 per cent of respondents said they support the idea while 29 per cent said they were opposed to it. Another 22 per cent said they were not sure about it. However, when asked how they would feel about that plan being implemented in their own neighbourhoods, support from respondents dropped to 45 per cent and the number of those opposed grew to 38 per cent.

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“There is a significant NIMBY sentiment when it comes to social and affordable housing,” David Valentin, executive vice-president of Mainstreet Research, said in a news release. “Many experts will tell you that stigmatizing social and affordable housing is a problem – when you can’t spread the housing around and it’s all in the downtown, it can cause significant issues and unintended consequences.

“On the other hand, it’s tough to stare down opposition from neighbourhood groups to these projects if you’re the local councillor. People perceive these developments lower property values and can increase crime even when that may not be the case.”

The poll also asked respondents about how they feel about new LRT lines to NAIT and to the southwest part of city as well as work that’s started on a new line to Mill Woods. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the lines, 27 per cent said they were dissatisfied, 30 per cent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied and five per cent said they weren’t sure.

READ MORE: Protesters show up for Valley Line LRT groundbreaking

Some candidates in this fall’s election campaign have brought up the idea of investing more in bus rapid transit (BRT) instead of light rail transit (LRT). The poll asked what Edmontonians would prefer and 37 per cent said they would rather see new light rail transit lines while 36 per cent preferred to see the city invest in bus rapid transit. Twenty-seven per cent said they were not sure.

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“Younger respondents are more likely to support an LRT while older respondents are more likely to support BRTs,” Valentin said. “Of course, younger Edmontonians are more likely to use public transit so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Older respondents likely know or realize LRTs cost more money and perhaps are thinking about what that might mean in a property tax increase.”

The Mainstreet/Postmedia poll also surveyed voters on what they would like to see happen to the old Rossdale power plant. More respondents – 24 per cent – said they like the idea of converting it into a shopping district similar to Vancouver’s Granville Island than any other option. However, 23 per cent said they would like to see “something else” other than redevelopment options listed by the pollsters and another 19 per cent said they weren’t sure what they want to see happen.

READ MORE: Oasis with thermal baths proposed for old Rossdale power plant site

Watch below: On Nov. 21, 2015, Shallima Maharaj filed this report after someone proposed converting the Rossdale power plant into an oasis brimming with life.

However the Rossdale power plant is redeveloped, Edmontonians who responded to the survey were more clear about how they’d like it to be paid for. Fifty-seven per cent said they would like to see that paid for through a public-private partnership as opposed to letting just the private or public sector do it.

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Edmontonians surveyed also seemed more resolute about how they feel about a potential plan to build a paved path along the North Saskatchewan River between Rossdale and the Groat Bridge. Fifty per cent said the support the idea compared to 30 per cent who said they were opposed. Another 20 per cent said they were not sure.

You can look at the poll results in their entirety below.

Methodology: Mainstreet surveyed a stratified random sample of 800 Edmontonians from October 10-11, 2017 through Chimera IVR. Respondents were screened to confirm voting eligibility. Landline and cell lines were included. Responses were weighted using demographic information to targets based on the 2016 Census. The margin of error for survey results is ± 3.46 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.