Londonderry housing complex could be homelessness template

The city plans to tackle the growing affordable housing crisis with an experiment in Londonderry as one of the first steps in a 10-year strategy.

Housing gap becoming critical in Edmonton, Mayor Don Iveson says

The city hopes to demolish a housing complex that's fallen into disrepair, and replace it with a more sophisticated affordable housing model with a mix of regular and subsidized units. (Google Street View )

The city plans to tackle the growing affordable-housing crisis in Edmonton with an experiment in Londonderry as one of the first steps in a 10-year strategy.

Mayor Don Iveson plans to write to the federal and provincial government, as well as other potential financial partners, to ask for money to build an affordable housing complex that could become a template for the rest of the city.

The plan is to take an 80-unit housing complex in Londonderry, which has fallen into such disrepair it's no longer fit for human habitation, and replace it with a high-density mixed-income building.

Iveson said he hopes to "turn this tragedy, this loss of 80 units, into a template for how we're going to turn this whole thing around."

The rents from the more expensive units would be used to subsidize those of people with lower incomes. The model is based on Regent Park in Toronto, which contains more than 2,000 units with rent geared to income.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the city would need commitment from the province and federal government to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. (CBC)
Iveson said if the plan works in Edmonton, the city will be able to build similar projects more quickly.

"We think, if we prove it out, then we can duplicate it over and over on some of these sites that are becoming run down," he said.

The Edmonton pilot project is just one step in a strategy to build and maintain the number affordable housing units as the demand climbs.

Iveson said the number of people in need of help when it comes to housing has risen more than 30 per cent in the last 10 years, while the city has only grown about 20 per cent.

To make matters worse, the federal government's agreements for social-housing subsidies will expire over the next 10 to 15 years, which means thousands of units will no longer be subsidized.

"That's a gap that's opening up there that really concerns me because it puts family in a lot of stress," Iveson said.

While housing affordability is a provincial responsibility, the city has taken the problem on because of how serious it's getting.

"Someone has to step up and take some leadership," said city housing manager Walter Trocenko. "If we don't, no one else will."

The mayor, members of council and city staff have all criticized the federal and provincial governments in the past for the lack of movement on social and affordable housing.

They said they're hopeful that will change with new political parties in charge.

Coun. Scott McKeen said he likes the strategy city staff put forward, but he doesn't want to wait for higher levels of government to start taking action.

"We have a housing crisis, it ain't going away, and I don't think we can wait two years," he said.

Iveson said to take on the problem alone would mean a four-to-five-per-cent tax increase.

​The plan still requires council's approval, which may come next week.

Councillors will debate putting $990,000 toward the plan when they work on the budget in November.


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