Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday $175 million in funding to fast-track more than 5,200 new housing units in Edmonton over the next three years.
“We’re changing the way housing gets built in this country,” Trudeau said at an apartment complex construction site in southwest Edmonton.
The money is to flow through the federal Housing Accelerator program and be used to eliminate barriers to getting the homes built.
Trudeau said the funds would create more housing options in the city, including more rentals, affordable apartments, and housing near university and college campuses.
“One of the challenges we’re facing right now with this housing crisis is over the past decades the federal governments of different stripes stepped back from the business of ensuring that housing was properly built right across the country in affordable ways, meeting the supply needs, meeting the growth of the country,” Trudeau said.
Before announcing the agreement, Trudeau toured a project in the city’s southwest corner that is to provide 334 housing units by the summer — with 60 per cent of them classified as affordable.
Walking through half-built hallways hanging with conduit, heavy with drywall dust and the smell of industrial adhesives, a hard-hatted Trudeau spoke with a number of tradespeople.
“Work’s been picking up,” said James Cameron, a plumber working on the apartment project. About 80 workers were on the site Wednesday.
“I think I speak for all of us when I say how it’s good to make changes,” Cameron’s co-worker Joey Boelhouwer told the prime minister.
Trudeau listened as David Mitton, president of builder Leston Holdings, described Edmonton-created wood framing technology that is speeding construction of the units. Cellphone apps and other technological tools also help workers communicate faster and more efficiently, he said.
“We keep trying to find ways to build homes quicker,” Trudeau responded.
Trudeau appeared at the news conference with Edmonton member of Parliament and cabinet minister Randy Boissonnault and Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
The city passed a motion last month declaring a homelessness and housing emergency.
“This city council has been committed to ensuring that everyone living in this city has a decent place to call home,” Sohi said Wednesday. “We’re very appreciative of how federal investments have been able to build more supportive housing.
“Our city has been leading the charge in removing barriers to housing by overhauling the zoning regulations, making it easier for people to build.”
Trudeau spoke about the need for different levels of government to work together on the issue. But unlike a housing announcement Trudeau made Tuesday in British Columbia, no representatives from the Alberta government were on hand.
In a social media post, Alberta Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon demanded Trudeau provide per capita housing funding and “end his attacks on the men and women in our oil and gas sector.”
“The prime minister must stop hiding from Alberta’s government and come to the table to talk about these important issues,” Nixon posted.
Trudeau said he’s happy to meet with provinces “whenever they ask me to meet.”
He said the federal-provincial program announced earlier in B.C. sees Ottawa match financing with that province to build affordable rental units. Trudeau and Premier David Eby appeared together to announce $2 billion in federal funding to expand the BC Builds program.
“I would love to be here with the province in the coming months announcing an Alberta Builds program,” Trudeau said. “We would like to see the province sit down with us in trilateral meetings on countering homelessness.”
Using provincial and federal money, the B.C. program is to use government, non-profit, community-owned, and underused land and fast-track development approval to build an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 new homes.
Also Tuesday, six smaller Alberta communities signed deals with Ottawa that provide nearly $14 million to help build 400 new homes over the next three years in Banff, Sylvan Lake, Bow Island, Westlock, Smoky Lake and Duchess.
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