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

The City of Edmonton is on track to meet — or, potentially, exceed — affordable housing targets it set four years ago.

In 2018, the city committed to spend $132 million for 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 through 2022.

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

“If we want to support Edmontonians in being more resilient and being able to maintain housing, we need to ensure that there’s an adequate supply of affordable housing for all,” said Christel Kjenner, the city’s director of housing and homelessness.

“The success we’ve had in the last five years demonstrates that it is possible and it is doable, and we need to continue to build on this momentum.”

Councillors will be discussing new reports regarding Edmonton’s housing and homelessness initiatives at the end of the month. A one-year update of progress so far was provided Friday.

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

Provincial fundings was used to refurbish roughly 1,560 units of city-owned social housing.

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

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

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

Two of the reports for councillors address approaches to support Indigenous-led providers

The City of Edmonton needs to keep building on the momentum it has garnered for building affordable housing, said Christel Kjenner, the city’s affordable housing and homelessness director. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The city says 57 per cent of Indigenous people renting households in 2016 needed more affordable or adequate housing — more than double the city average.

Indigenous people, who account for six per cent of the city’s population, make up 62 per cent of people experiencing homelessness tracked by Homeward Trust, an Edmonton homelessness organization. 

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

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

Supportive housing

As of this month, the city has approved 644 supportive housing units, an increase of 28 per cent to the supportive housing inventory, according to the update report on Edmonton’s supportive housing approach.

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

The total annual operations for the projects are estimated to cost around $11 million, but they still requires confirmation of funding.

Operations funding is needed from the province to realize the benefits from existing capital investments, the report says.

City wants province’s help

Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack believes the provincial government needs to step up when it comes to helping combat 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.”

Aside from compassionate grounds, there is a strong financial health-care incentive to spend on homelessness supports, Knack said. 

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

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 gives $29 million a year to Homeward Trust for various programming.

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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