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Province looking to partner on more affordable housing projects

The province of Alberta is allocating $68 million toward affordable housing and the minister responsible is hoping to see pitches for projects in smaller communities. 

Jason Nixon, the minister of seniors, community and social services, toured Grande Prairie’s Coordinated Care Campus and met with an affordable housing provider in the city on Tuesday.

Nixon announced the province’s second round of the Affordable Housing Partnership Program this week. Public, non-profit and private-sector partners can submit their affordable housing projects for provincial funding until Oct. 16.

“It’s a priority that it takes place in every community, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Grande Prairie comes forward with,” Nixon told reporters. 

Smaller communities 

During the first round of funding allocations this year, all but five of the 30 projects supported were in the Edmonton or Calgary area. 

“We, of course, have large challenges in our two largest cities when it comes to housing,” Nixon said. 

“We’re working tirelessly to tackle those problems. But it’s important to me to make sure that we don’t forget about the rest of the province.” 

Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton said the city is applying to the partnership program hoping that provincial funding could help finish the Coordinated Care Campus. 

“I know our administration is prepared with that application and we look forward to being a successful proponent this time,” Clayton said. 

The project will turn a former hotel into 106 housing units, a medical centre, an Indigenous cultural space and offices for city staff. Renovations are expected to finish later this year, but the city needs almost $1.2 million to complete the supportive housing project as planned. 

“It’s work that is a priority. However, it doesn’t inhibit people from moving in.” 

Clayton said, despite the additional work, 63 residents could move to the Coordinated Care Campus next month. 

On Monday, Grande Prairie city council deferred a decision on funding to August 21. 

‘Unique solutions’ 

The minister also met with the Grande Spirit Foundation and toured seniors housing while in the city. 

Nixon said he hopes to see “unique solutions” in applications to the partnership program, like Indigenous-led projects. 

“We want to make sure that our housing projects from emergency shelter on are coordinated well, culturally appropriate, and working closely with Indigenous communities,” Nixon said. 

Métis Local 1990 opened Grande Prairie’s Elder’s Caring shelter with 16 bedrooms in 2003.

Shannon Dunfield, the Métis Local 1990 president, said potential opportunities like the  Affordable Housing Partnership Program will be a priority as the local transitions to a district under the Otipemisiwak Métis Government. 

“It was great to hear about the announcement from Minister Nixon,” Dunfield said in a statement to CBC News. 

“We will continue to work closely with the city of Grande Prairie as we further explore these opportunities.” 

The city of Grande Prairie reported Indigenous people were disproportionately experiencing homelessness during a point-in-time count last fall. 

Sixty one per cent of survey respondents identified as Indigenous, compared to 11.5 per cent of Grande Prairie’s population. 

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