Asking About Affordable Housing This Election Season

Yesterday, the Mayor announced the City’s “Ask About Edmonton” campaign. The new advocacy campaign focuses on encouraging Edmontonians to ask candidates tough questions on big issues such as housing and climate change during the upcoming election. 

With the throne speech coming up on Monday, we all need to be clear about the things that matter most. Yesterday, at Homeward Trust’s ROOPH Awards I spoke about the need to speak up and ask about affordable housing in our city and province, and asked the Provincial government to really step up with funding. With thousands still left in poverty, and no announcement from any of the Parties about new housing funding as of yet - we need a campaign like Ask About Edmonton and we need to be clear about the city’s needs.

You can read part of my speech on affordable housing and the upcoming election below.

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In Edmonton, we’ve made significant progress on the issues of poverty, homelessness and housing affordability over the last several years. We’ve come to recognize some of the complexities of these issues, and understand that if we don’t tackle the symptoms of poverty that put people on the street, we can’t hope to end homelessness in our city.

The City of Edmonton’s goal, laid out in our EndPoverty Edmonton strategy, is to move 10,000 people out of poverty by 2021. Today, more than 100,000 Edmontonians still live in poverty, including almost 30,000 children.

Although we’ve housed thousands of Edmontonians… there are still more than 1,700 people experiencing chronic homelessness in our city. And some 50,000 in need of more affordable housing.

Delivering more comprehensive services such as permanent supportive housing will help to reduce these numbers, and move us one step closer to ending poverty and homelessness in Edmonton. Of course, these services require a great deal of effort, both in terms of funding and our own understanding and compassion for those experiencing homelessness.

But I’m proud to say that the City of Edmonton is completely committed to this work.

That’s why, in the 2019-2022 budget, we earmarked $140 million to support the development of 2500 new affordable housing units and are working hard with our affordable housing partners to advocate for more money to build 2500 more for a total of 5000 units.

We also know that our city is stronger when there are housing options for everyone… in all areas of the city. That is why in August, Council approved a plan for 16% affordable housing in every neighbourhood across Edmonton. Affordable housing is not just for certain neighbourhoods downtown or near the core - it is an endeavour that should be championed and encouraged by all, in every part of our city. Affordable housing is a shared effort, and needs to be a shared goal for all Edmontonians, and every level of government.

To tackle this crisis, we need other orders of government to rise to the occasion and take action. $1.127 billion is needed to build 5,000 homes in 5 years (in Edmonton alone) - a target set by the City in our efforts to abolish poverty in Edmonton. Many of our not-for-profit housing providers are shovel ready for affordable housing development in Edmonton, but more than anything, we need the Provincial and Federal governments to dig deeper.

This need is great and the Province now needs to match up their words with their actions. Housing has to be a top priority for every order of government.

So far, with the Provincial election on its way, not a single party has mentioned specific new funding for housing. We need everyone - every party - to make affordable housing one of the most important issues to put significant funding into.

We have a model to drive our affordable housing development to meet City goals, we have providers prepped to build, and many citizens that need homes that won’t hinder upon their livelihood - but we’re not seeing enough support, we’re not getting enough funding.

Out of the $1.2 billion funded by the province over 5 years, approximately $800 million was for new units, and Edmonton received $107 million. The two big cities received about a quarter of the money, and the truth is - we have nearly all of the need.  Those dollars have long been spent. Our new shovel ready plan needs new money. Now we need the Province to step up. We need the parties vying for seats to step up. And we need all of you to make noise, be loud, and raise this issue as much as you can.

The road ahead is long, and not without challenges… but I’m confident we can be successful with the support of great partners like Homeward Trust, other levels of government and everyone in this room today.

I ask you not to RELENT in your advocacy for and pursuit of putting an end to homelessness and housing people in Edmonton well, and with dignity.

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It’s important to note that we’re grateful that all orders of government are at the table and willing to talk about this issue. But that’s not enough, we need more - it comes down to the Province taking action so that people can be housed properly. We have precisely identified the need and we need them to meet it.

 


*UPDATE: The Governments of Canada and Alberta made an announcement today regarding funding for affordable housing in Alberta. Our understanding is that this money is the last $300 million of the $1.2 billion released 4 years ago by the Province. We are anxious to understand program details and see further updates.