City of Edmonton on track to exceed four-year affordable housing goals

The City of Edmonton is well on its way to meeting and even exceeding the affordable housing targets it set four years ago.

In 2018, the city pledged to spend $132 million on 600 supportive housing units, which require staff to help tenants with a range of services, and 2,500 new or renovated affordable housing units from 2019 to 2022.

The city says it expects to exceed those goals and is setting ambitious four-year housing goals.

“If we want to help Edmontonians be more resilient and be able to keep their homes, we need to make sure there is an adequate supply of affordable housing for everyone,” said Christel Kjenner, Director of Housing and Homelessness at the city.

“The success we’ve had over the past five years demonstrates that it’s possible and doable, and we must continue to build on this momentum.”

Councilors will discuss new reports regarding Edmonton’s housing and homelessness initiatives at the end of the month. A one-year update on progress to date was provided on Friday.

As of June 1, the city has committed $115 million in land and grants for nearly 650 supportive housing units and about 2,400 affordable units.

Provincial funds were used to refurbish approximately 1,560 City-owned social housing units.

The city expects 1,500 of those affordable units to come online this year, including more than 400 supportive housing units, according to a city spokesperson.

In the fall, the city administration plans to ask the council for more money to help create 2,400 to 3,500 new and renovated units by the end of 2026.

Kjenner said affordable housing is key to addressing long-term homelessness.

Two of the reports for advisors discuss approaches to supporting Indigenous-led providers

The City of Edmonton must continue to build on the momentum it has built to build affordable housing, said Christel Kjenner, the city’s director of affordable housing and homelessness. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The city says 57% of Indigenous people who rented households in 2016 needed more affordable or adequate housing, more than double the city average.

Aboriginal people, who make up 6% of the city’s population, account for 62% of homeless people tracked by Homeward Trust, an Edmonton homelessness organization.

The city is considering the creation of an Indigenous-led shelter to provide a culturally relevant option that reduces barriers.

It is also pursuing an assessment of affordable housing needs. Preliminary results indicate that one in seven Edmontonians — and one in four renters — need more affordable or adequate housing.

Supportive housing

As of this month, the city has approved 644 supportive housing units, a 28 per cent increase in supportive housing inventory, according to the City’s Approach Update Report. Edmonton Supportive Housing.

Of those units, 450 are being built under the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, including five modular buildings and a conversion of the former Days Inn in Old Strathcona.

Total annual operations for the projects are estimated at approximately $11 million, but still require funding confirmation.

Funding for operations is needed from the province to realize the benefits of existing capital investments, the report says.

The city wants help from the province

Neighborhood Nakota Isga County. Andrew Knack believes the provincial government needs to step in when it comes to helping address homelessness in Edmonton.

“It’s not hard to end homelessness for the hardest to house,” he said. “We have the plan – we just need the resources.”

Besides compassionate grounds, there is a strong health care financial incentive to spend on homeless supports, Knack said.

The Alberta government takes homelessness “very seriously,” Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan said in a statement to CBC News, adding that the province has established a provincial task force on homelessness.

The task force, made up of experts and community leaders, aims to find new ways to reduce recurring homelessness, Luan said.

The statement did not directly address operational costs.

The provincial government contributes $29 million annually to Homeward Trust for various programs.

Kjenner is optimistic the province will give more money to Homeward Trust, noting positive dialogue between municipal and provincial politicians in recent weeks.

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