Edmonton's moratorium on inner-city social housing to remain in place, for now
'Everybody has a responsibility to look after the people of Edmonton,' says member of Central McDougall board
A moratorium on social housing in five inner-city neighbourhoods will remain in place for several months, city council decided Tuesday.
Councillors spent several hours debating the moratorium, put in place four years ago, that suspended city investment in affordable housing in McCauley, Eastwood, Queen Mary Park, Alberta Avenue and Central McDougall until October 2016.
City administration had recommended some exemptions to the moratorium, which would have seen a few small housing projects built.
But people who live in the communities covered by the moratorium told councillors the exemptions would effectively put an end to the temporary ban. They want a city-wide policy on affordable housing put in place before the moratorium is lifted.
"Everybody has a responsibility to look after the people of Edmonton," said Dan Eckel, who sits on the Central McDougall Community League board. "You cannot continue to expect a few communities to accept all the poverty and all the social issues in Edmonton. It has to be shared."
In the end, council supported a motion by Coun. Ben Henderson to keep the moratorium in place until the city can work with the communities on plans to revitalize neighbourhoods and reduce the concentration of poverty.
"Our housing branch will now go back into those communities," Henderson said. "But I think they'll be able to go back in with a different objective, which will be an objective about, 'How can housing help the community?' "
City administration was asked to bring back a report in the fourth quarter that will include recommendations about when the moratorium should end.
Rather than concentrate social housing in a few inner-city neighbourhoods, the city has the responsibility to build affordable units across Edmonton, said Mayor Don Iveson.
"People are going to push back and say, 'No I don't want those poor people living in my neighbourhood,' " Iveson said Tuesday. "But frankly, I'd say that's an un-Edmontonian attitude.
"I expect this council to stand up for vulnerable Edmontonians and do what's right, because it's in the best interests of the city."
Cris Basualdo, who lives near 118th Avenue, said low-income families should have the chance to access social housing in many parts of the city.
"Housing needs to be used as a tool, city-wide, to alleviate poverty, and to give families opportunities to live city-wide."
Next step still to be determined
The mayor said he wants the city to move past a blanket moratorium. He suggested the city work with the five communities to see what each community would accept.
Iveson said affordable social housing must be spread throughout the city in an effort to avoid "concentrating the pressure and economic hardship on certain communities."
The mayor said money will come from the federal government in the next year to help pay for new projects. He also expects social housing to be included in the provincial budget, set to be tabled by the Notley government on Thursday.
Iveson said the city has been putting a "full court press" on the provincial government to invest in housing for vulnerable people, who he said are driving up health care and justice costs.