Edmonton's social housing units need millions in repairs, report says

More than half of Edmonton's social housing units are falling apart and are badly in need of repair, according to a new report on the state of the city’s infrastructure.

Report finds social housing in worst condition of any infrastructure owned by the city

The city hopes to replace this 80-unit housing complex in Londonderry, which is no longer fit for human habitation, with a high-density mixed-income building. (Google Street View )

More than half of Edmonton's social housing units are falling apart and are badly in need of repair, according to a new report on the state of the city's infrastructure.

The report, based on the most recent data from 2014, found that much of the city's affordable housing stock is nearing the end of its 45-year lifespan and is in "poor and very poor physical condition."

Social housing is in the worst condition of any infrastructure owned by the city, according to the report, which was released last week.

"Clearly reinvestment in this asset type is required," the report reads.

To completely renovate all of the Capital Region Housing Corporation's 1,032 units across the city would cost about $45 million, said CEO Greg Dewling.

"A lot of the insulation would need to be upgraded, roofs need to be replaced, windows, siding, some of the flooring would be fairly dated," Dewling said of the current state of much of the city's social housing.

"The report says this is the type of work that should have been done today. The funding that we get doesn't normally cover everything that you would normally do, so we tend to have to prioritize what we do. Additional funding will have a significant impact on the lifecycle of these buildings."

4,000 families on waiting list

Dewling said the CRHC operates on a capital budget of about $4 million a year. Ten per cent of that money comes from the city, he said.

Dewling said refurbishing work needs to be done right away to accommodate the more than 4,000 families currently on their waiting list for affordable housing.
Speaking last week from the CBC Edmonton newsroom, Mayor Don Iveson said reinvestment in affordable housing is a high priority for the city. (CBC)

Last year, CRHC closed an 80-unit housing complex in the Londonderry neighbourhood. It needed extensive renovations and there was a "significant" presence of asbestos, Dewling said.

Families living there were relocated, he said.

It would take 10 to 15 years to completely renovate or replace existing social housing complexes and create more affordable housing, Dewling said.

Last week, Mayor Don Iveson told CBC that reinvestment in affordable housing will be the city's highest priority when it makes a pitch for a piece of the federal government's $53-billion plan for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure.

"The (large) share of that funding should be dedicated towards the restoration and repair of Canada's existing aging public-housing stock, as well as the creation of new units," Iveson said.

Iveson said dollars were scarce under the previous New Building Canada Plan, and the flexibility for municipalities to use the funding as they decide will be "welcome" compared to restrictions in the past.

"For me, the highest area of priority would be housing," Iveson said. "Repair of the existing social housing stock and building much needed new social housing stock for everybody, from Indigenous Canadians coming off horrible conditions on reserves to refugees and newcomers who need this housing stock as part of their transition."


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