Calgary

City plan could end homelessness in Calgary

City officials have a two step plan that they say could end homelessness in Calgary but it relies heavily on the federal and provincial governments buying in.

But federal and provincial governments would need to fund affordable housing plan

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he has a two step plan to end homelessness in Calgary involving an opportunity in real estate created by the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

City officials have a two step plan that they say could end homelessness in Calgary.

However it relies heavily on the federal and provincial governments buying in.

The city says the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity that otherwise didn't exist on this file.

There are six hotels and numerous apartment buildings now for sale in Calgary.

Under the first stage of the city's plan, it would ask the federal government to contribute $46 million in capital dollars and $13 million in operating funds from its housing strategy.

That money would be used by the city to quickly acquire enough units to house 600 people who are currently homeless.

Under the second phase of the plan, Calgary would seek more than $500 million from the federal and provincial governments to build, acquire and partner with others to add another 4,800 non-profit units over the next several years.

"There's a tremendous opportunity right here, right now in Calgary," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

"There are 3,000 people on any given night in Calgary who are experiencing homelessness. We can put those 3,000 people in homes."

Savings to the shelter system

While it sounds like an expensive plan, Nenshi points out that the current shelter system is very expensive.

"If we can pull people out of that shelter system, that's actually savings to the whole system," said the mayor.

"Ultimately it will be better for the system and better for society as whole if we completely shift how we deal with people who are living homeless."

There are currently 22 new housing projects which are said to be construction-ready.

Those projects collectively would add 1,800 new units.

The balance of the plan called for the acquisition of empty buildings or leveraging the money to build more units.

Those measures could add another 1,000 units a year over the next three years.

The city estimates that going ahead with the entire plan would create 2,800 construction jobs in Calgary.

City council's intergovernmental affairs committee gave its support to the advocacy plan during its meeting on Thursday.

Nenshi said ideally, he would hear from the federal and provincial governments by this fall whether they're interested in investing in the plan.

About 50 per cent of all homeless people in Alberta are in Calgary.

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