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‘It’s time for action’: Those in need of affordable housing demand help; province demands federal cash flow

John Kunka is one of thousands of Calgarians who need affordable housing.

Kunka lost his left leg to infection last year and is on AISH.

His wife works at Walmart.

Until Monday, they lived in a five-bedroom home, but it was sold and their time was up.

Tuesday, the couple, along with Kunka’s parents, moved into a tiny two-bedroom apartment that costs $300 more than the entire house they had been renting.

“It’s tough. It’s going to take a huge change in living … lifestyle,” said Kunka.

“The stress we’ve gone through over the last three months, it’s been really tough. And medically-wise, it’s caused a lot of problems with myself when I already have a lot of medical issues as it is. It’s put a lot of stress on all of us. It’s been really difficult.”

Kunka’s 17-year-old daughter has moved out to stay with friends as a result of the downsizing.

The family is one of thousands in Calgary alone in need of affordable housing.

“I think there needs to be a hard look at both Calgary and Alberta, looking at the issue with the lower-income people that are looking for entry-level, affordable prices,” said Kunka.

“It’s time for action. And enough of promising, it’s time to put the boots on the ground, shovels in the ground and get these properties built so that people aren’t struggling.”

Tuesday morning, Jason Nixon, Alberta’s minister of seniors, community and social services, said the provincial government is taking action and working with municipalities but accused the federal government of giving short-shrift to Alberta’s needs.

“The province of Alberta expects fair per-capita funding when it comes to the federal government’s investment of CMHC funds,” said Nixon.

“A couple weeks ago, the federal government announced $1.5 billion worth of funding through the CMHC program (The Rapid Housing Initiative) and only provided Alberta $38 million. … Less than three per cent of the entire program.

Our province has 12 per cent of the population, and certainly expects to see that funding to be matched at that level.”

Jason Nixon, Alberta’s minister of seniors, community and social services, accused the federal government of giving short-shrift to Alberta’s needs.

Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Hamilton, Ont., announcing a $45-million grant to that city for affordable housing under the CMHC program.

“Which is 20 per cent more than the province of Alberta received through that program — for one city in Ontario,” said Nixon.

“For them to provide more money to one city in Ontario than the entire province of Alberta is unacceptable.”

Nixon, along with the mayors of both Calgary and Edmonton, penned a letter to the federal housing minster, Sean Fraser, demanding the funding be upped to match other jurisdictions.

“We are concerned that the federal government does not have a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges Alberta and Alberta’s large municipalities face,” wrote the trio, who ended the letter calling for immediate action.

“We are requesting two clear actions: 1) reconsider funding allocation to unfunded HI project stream applications, through HI or alternative funding sources; 2) take immediate action to develop an equitable funding model in which provinces and territories, and municipalities, are appropriately resourced to deal with the housing challenges in our jurisdictions.”

Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson affiliated with the federal housing minister confirmed the letter had been received and said a response from the minister would be forthcoming.

By publication time, nothing had been issued.

As Kunka’s family unpacked in their tinier but more expensive home, he said bickering between politicians does nothing to solve the problem, and that families like his need help now.

He doesn’t care what level of government is delivering it.

“They say they are doing the best that they can but nothing has helped the market,” he said.

“I think it’s just a lot of talk to score political points.”

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