The federal government is committing $14.9 million to build dozens of new permanent, affordable housing units in Edmonton.
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, made the announcement in Edmonton on Tuesday morning.
“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. But far too many Canadians are put in the impossible position of having to choose between paying for their groceries and paying for their rent,” Hussen said, adding the past 14 months during the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly challenging on the most vulnerable populations.
The $14.9 million in funding to support housing projects in Edmonton comes through the city stream of the federal Rapid Housing Initiative. Earlier this year, 250 affordable housing units were announced for Edmonton through this initiative.
The new funding will support the rapid creation of over 68 new permanent, affordable housing units in Edmonton, which Hussen said will be built within the next 12 months.
“This will help people in precarious housing situations,” the minister said. “These targeted investments will not only stimulate the local economy but they will create good middle-class jobs when they are needed the most. Simply put, this is great news for everyone.
“Housing matters. That’s the key takeaway. Housing matters now more than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we’ve asked people to shelter at home to control and curb COVID-19, our homes have become places of sanctuary, refuge and safety. Imagine if you’re being told to shelter at home but you have no home?”
Mayor Don Iveson said the funding allows the city to make further strides in its efforts to end chronic homelessness in Edmonton, while reducing stress on the health, justice and law enforcement systems.
Iveson stressed that a minimum of 68 units will be created, putting the city’s supportive housing total at 468 units.
“We’ll see how much we can stretch that but each one of those units brings us closer to our goal of the 600 units of supportive housing we were aiming to build by next year,” Iveson said.
“(We’re) well on our way, but still not at our target and the need has grown on account of COVID-19. So there’s still a gap here that we need to work together to fill, but this does move us closer in closing that gap.”
Iveson said he is still calling on the provincial government to step up to ensure these units have the embedded on-site operating support they need to ensure people remain housed. He is asking for $7.8 million in funding from the province for on-site supportive housing services, which fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
“There’s still a role for the provincial government here and we await their support,” he said.
“Solving chronic homelessness is not just about four walls and a roof, it’s also about treating the issues that have contributed to and led to that homelessness in the first place.”
Iveson said he will be sending another letter to the provincial government outlining the city’s need.
In a statement, the press secretary for Alberta’s department of Community and Social Services said the provincial government needs “a concrete plan from the City of Edmonton that will allow us to work collaboratively to ensure unhoused Edmontonians have access to housing.”
“We look forward to reviewing mayor Iveson’s letter and finding an innovative approach to ensure we are supporting these folks,” Rob Williams said.
Alberta NDP seniors and housing critic Lori Sigurdson said she was disappointed to see no UCP representation at the announcement.
“I echo the calls of Mayor Don Iveson to the UCP that operational funds are necessary to ensure Albertans who need wraparound services in affordable housing are supported,” Sigurdson said.
Hussen said the federal government is in talks with the provincial government to ensure supportive services are available to accompany the funding for housing.
It’s not yet known where the new units will be built in Edmonton. The city said a report will be brought to council, likely in August, to approve a recommended approach on specific housing projects.
According to Homeward Trust, there are more than 2,500 people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.