Edmonton gets $17M of federal rapid-housing initiative

Edmonton will receive a $17.3-million slice of a federal government fund to provide new housing for the homeless.

Money is from $500M pot of Ottawa's $1BN rapid housing initiative announced in Sept.

Camp Pekiwewin in Rossdale is one of several encampments the city is working to dismantle before winter. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Edmonton will receive a $17.3-million slice of a federal government fund to provide new housing for the homeless.

The federal government announced on Tuesday how much each major city will get from the $1-billion fund, which was announced in late September as part of the National Housing Strategy. 

Mayor Don Iveson said the money will help create 74 units for the city's homeless. 

"The money will move quickly," Iveson said in a news conference Tuesday. "Our goal will be to move that within weeks, as opposed to months or years."

Iveson said the city is looking at modular sites or acquiring one or more hotel properties in conjunction with housing provider Homeward Trust.

"We needed to know what the budget was, and now we can go shopping with that." 

Major cities will receive a collective $500 million in immediate support, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced. 

The amounts that 10 cities and regions were determined based on the "levels of renters in severe housing need and of people experiencing homelessness," the news release said. 

  • Toronto: $203.3 million
  • Montreal: $56.8 million
  • Vancouver: $51.5 million
  • Ottawa: $31.9 million
  • Calgary: $24.6 million
  • Winnipeg: $12.5 million
  • Halifax: $8.7 million

Iveson said the breakdown, based on need and market realities, makes sense. 

"Buying a hotel room or building a modular unit in Vancouver does cost more than Edmonton, likewise in Toronto." 

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has argued for funding allocated based on need and special local circumstances. 

"Sounds like the federal government has listened to that advice," Iveson said. 

The other $500 million from the RHI is for housing projects based on applications from provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous governing bodies and non-profit organizations.

The program will accept applications until Dec. 31.

Iveson said the city will apply for some of that funding for projects he said are "shovel ready." 

He pointed to four sites earmarked for permanent supportive housing and approved by council. 

The mayor also praised the speed at which the federal government and local agencies stepped up to accommodate the need. 

In late August, Iveson made a plea for help to find spaces for homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I think we've made considerable progress within the last eight or nine weeks," he said. "I'm pleased with how it's come together." 

"I've never seen the city and the agencies move more quickly to meet the needs of vulnerable people with the activation of the conference centre." 

On Monday, the city announced the agencies that will run the Edmonton Conference Centre, slated to open by the end of the week to provide 300 overnight beds and 400 daytime spaces.