Edmonton City Council approves zoning rule changes to address homelessness

City councillors approve zoning rule changes to address homelessness in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: A vote at Edmonton City Hall on Monday saw councillors approve changes to zoning rules in order to make it easier to build supportive housing in the city. Sarah Komadina reports.

A vote at Edmonton City Hall on Monday saw changes to zoning rules approved with the aim of providing more support to homeless people living in the city.

The change means housing providers will be able to build larger homes with less red tape in order to help provide supportive housing those who would otherwise live on the streets.

Several residents told city councillors on Monday they were concerned that paving the way for more supportive housing in the city may lead to less safe and welcoming neighbourhoods. City administrators, on the other hand, indicated to councillors that there is no evidence to suggest more supportive housing increases crime rates and that the move could help reduce the number of people living without a home.

READ MORE: 300 units of supportive housing hinge on Edmonton council vote

Watch below: (From March 2, 2017) The city will have to debate how it can help the most vulnerable and the need for supportive housing. As Vinesh Pratap reports, the big question is where it should go.

Where should Edmonton have supportive housing?
Where should Edmonton have supportive housing?

Mayor Don Iveson acknowledged some of the concerns that Edmontonians expressed to city council.

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“[With regard to] folks who have had negative experiences around certain kind of badly managed housing… I think we’re very sensitive to that and I think that’s why we have to respond with good compliance, good education and good enforcement of any kind of problem housing in the city,” he said. “But using our zoning bylaw to say that, ‘No, we don’t want more particular kinds of housing because occasionally it gets off track,’ is the wrong way to go.

“Reducing regulatory barriers so we can build more good housing and then going after any problem housing, whether it’s a group home home or any poorly managed legal lodging… that’s the right response for us,” he said.

“I think some of the permitting process and notification process right now presumes that this kind of housing is a bad thing or a nuisance, when we increasingly see housing for vulnerable people in our community as part of the answer to other challenges that we’re seeing in terms of social disorder.”

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The changes approved on Monday ease restrictions on how many supportive housing units can be located in a particular area, as well as where they can be placed.

“Some of our old rules are really in the way of our goals around expanding the inventory of permanent supportive housing,” Iveson said. “This will look to sweep away some regulations that make it onerous for our partners to develop these projects that we’ve said are a key priority for the city.

“We’ll be in a position for applications to come forward right away. I appreciate that our staff have moved quickly to respond to these issues that were identified by some of the housing providers, and that we’ll be able to clear barriers out of their way to make application and put shovels in the ground.”

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Over the past year, the City of Edmonton has sought public engagement on the matter via a stakeholder survey and a workshop.

–With files from Global News’ Sarah Komadina and 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston