Edmonton pitches 4 sites for permanent supportive housing

Four city-owned plots could be the new home for 150 homeless people with chronic conditions if city council agrees with recommendations in a new report. 

Terrace Heights, King Edward Park, McArthur Industrial and Inglewood selected

A rendering of the envisioned complex in Inglewood that would house 30 homeless people with chronic needs. (City of Edmonton)

Four city-owned plots in Edmonton could be the new home for 150 people currently living on the streets, if city council agrees with recommendations in a new report released Thursday. 

The city's citizen services department revealed the four proposed sites for the next permanent supportive housing projects: Terrace Heights, King Edward Park, McArthur Industrial and Inglewood. 

Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed locations at a meeting June 29. 

The sites had to meet certain criteria: be close to transit, amenities and services and be well-integrated with the surrounding land uses. 

They must be located in a neighbourhood that has less than 16 per cent affordable housing — a policy set by the city.  

The Inglewood and McArthur Industrial neighbourhoods are in Coun. Bev Esslinger's Ward 2. 

"We desperately need permanent supportive housing," Esslinger said in an interview Thursday. 

The 150 units address a fraction of the total 900 estimated are needed in Edmonton's plan to prevent and end homelessness. 

The city plans to sell the land at less than market value to the Homeward Trust Foundation, the non-profit housing organization that administers the federal government's homelessness strategy in Edmonton and implements Alberta's 10-year plan to end homelessness. 

Homeward Trust would ensure units are spread across the four sites in four- to six-storey apartment buildings, oversee the design and construction and be responsible for communicating plans to the neighbourhoods. 

Esslinger said the sites are likely suitable but moving forward, it will be crucial for the city to engage the public and not rush the process. 

"We don't want to do anything to communities, we want to work with them and address their concerns and ultimately they're supportive of what happens in their neighbourhood."

Four sites

The proposed lot in Inglewood at 123rd Street and 112th Avenue used to be a bus turnaround for Edmonton Transit Services and is within walking distance to several bus routes, recreation amenities and services, the report says.

"It seems to be that it ticks all the boxes of what they were looking for and what makes a successful supportive housing project," Esslinger said. "What's positive is that we have land that we're not using for anything else." 

The site in McArthur Industrial at 141st Street and 137th Avenue is located on the western edge of the Wellington neighbourhood, close to grocery and retail stores, and transit services.

The land in Terrace Heights at 65th Street and 101st Avenue in central Edmonton is within a large parcel across from the Capilano Mall and the Capilano skatepark in Ward 8. 

"I think it makes sense," Ward 8 Coun. Ben Henderson said. "I think we can help out finishing off that park as part of the project, which has advantages to the larger community." 

A proposed complex for Terrace Heights near Capilano would house 40 people. (City of Edmonton)

Henderson anticipates that people will have concerns and that's where public engagement will be integral to the success of the projects. 

"If you can really sit people down and help them understand what's going on and allay their fears and concerns and really talk that through, that's a huge help and that's part of what we need to do."

The site in King Edward Park at 81st Avenue and 93rd Street is east of the Mill Creek Ravine, close to transit, shopping, recreation opportunities and other amenities.

The land is valued at $5 million, the capital cost to build the four complexes is approximately $35 million and the annual operating cost is estimated to be $4.5 million. 

The city has not offered to cover the operating expenses of the facilities, the report says. 

The city revealed the four proposed sites two weeks after council approved more bridge housing spaces, including vacant jockey quarters at the Northlands exhibition grounds. 

Henderson said the city has to step up as it waits for the province to commit to the facilities.

"It's frustrating because in order to do all of it, we need other orders of government," Henderson said. "We just feel we need to get on with it."