Construction is underway to convert two former Edmonton hotels into permanent affordable housing units for the city’s most vulnerable.
Member of the federal and municipal governments spoke Wednesday morning about two projects currently underway in Edmonton that will see the addition of 138 new permanent, affordable housing units.
The former Days Inn Hotel on University Avenue at 103 Street is being converted into up to 85 hew spaces. The southside facility will be run by The Mustard Seed.
The former Sands Hotel on Fort Road at 123 Avenue is being renovated into 53 new homes for those experiencing homelessness in the city.
The northside property will be operated by Niginan Housing Ventures, a registered non-profit charity formed to address particular housing needs and requirements of Indigenous people in Edmonton.
“These homes will be Indigenous owned and operated, which is an important step in ensuring that we focus on offering programs that support Indigenous people,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said.
The federal government is investing $14.8 million in the two projects, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rapid housing initiative — a $1 billion program aimed at addressing the urgent shelter needs of vulnerable Canadians by quickly create new affordable housing. The City of Edmonton has committed $6.7 million.
“We believe that each and every Edmontonian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen said.
“Today’s investment is about protecting our most vulnerable. It’s about ensuring folks don’t have to worry about where they will spend their next night.
“It is about creating a solid foundation for people to build better lives. And it’s about making sure people are given the opportunity to have a place to call home.”
Existing housing challenges have only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sohi said the number of people without homes in Edmonton has more than doubled in the last two years, with more than 2,800 Edmontonians currently experiencing homelessness.
While grateful for the federal funding, the mayor said there is still more work to be done to ensure every Edmontonians has a safe place to call home.
The city has a goal of adding 900 new affordable housing units by the end of the year. Sohi said the city is currently 512 units short of that goal.
The mayor is calling for significant investment in affordable housing from all levels of government.
“The number one priority for me in 2022, and has been since I’ve taken office, is to work with the province, to work with the federal government to do whatever we can to catch up and build as many units as possible, along with working toward having more services for harm reduction, for recovery and for everything else that is necessary for us to tackle the crisis that we are facing with houselessness, and related challenges of mental health, addiction and poverty,” Sohi said.
“By investing in long-term, sustainable housing we will reduce harm, we will improve community safety, we will free up space in our hospitals, we will reduce costs for policing and the justice system and we build people’s capacity to participate in our economy and in our community.”
Work is underway at both sites, floor-by-floor. The goal is to be finished renovations at both properties and move residents in by this summer.