The City of Edmonton is among more than a dozen communities across Canada to get an immediate cash infusion to address supportive housing needs.
“The need has always been most acute in the cities,” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters moments after the federal announcement was made.
In September, Ottawa announced a billion dollars for a new rapid housing plan to create up to 3,000 new units across the country.
“I spoke to the mayors of these 15 cities a few days ago, they’re fully on board with our plan,” said federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen.
On Tuesday morning, details were announced about how the funding will be allocated.
It will be split into two $500-million streams.
A big cities stream will be divided between 15 communities; Edmonton’s share is $17 million and the cash is coming in days.
The other cities include: Quebec City, London, Hamilton, Region of Waterloo, Halifax, Calgary, Region of Peel, Montreal, Winnipeg, Surrey, Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto and Capital Regional District (British Columbia).
“This is a very dedicated fund for rapid housing,” Hussen said. “It is targeting the most vulnerable in our communities.”
“The $17 million in our case will buy either one larger property or two smaller properties,” Iveson said.
The city estimates the new cash will create up to 74 housing units which will be used to transition people out of pandemic accommodations and existing shelters.
The federal funding does not require a matching commitment from lower levels of government.
The direct-to-cities model highlights the increasing work by municipalities, including Edmonton, of taking on the front-end work of a provincial responsibility related to housing.
Iveson said the city is not looking to “add units to the city’s portfolio, necessarily.”
He explained the city’s housing department will co-ordinate the flow of dollars to social agencies.
“We are very interested in working with the agencies who do this work very, very well and who are very nimble and cost effective in doing it; very entrepreneurial in their approach.”
“I have full confidence, at least in the first stream, that you will see a lot of housing being built before the winter,” Hussen indicated.
While no direct provincial funding is involved, Iveson said for the initiative to be successful, the provinces still have to play a role “to come forward with the operating dollars within their jurisdiction to embed the services.”
Natalie Tomczak, the press secretary for provincial Seniors and Housing Minister, Josephine Pon said in an email: “The Rapid Housing Initiative from the federal government was just announced today and as such, no decisions have been made.”
The other half billion of Ottawa’s housing plan will be application-based — open to Indigenous governments, non-profits and other communities. The city wants to access this, as well.
Projects in the second stream have to be completed within 12 months of federal officials giving the green light for funding.
Meanwhile, the details of where the city’s initial $17 million will be spent could be announced in a few weeks.