Edmonton

Mayor demands action as social housing crisis looms

Mayor Don Iveson says he will ask city staff to come up with a plan to deal with a looming social housing crisis that could leave thousands of Edmonton families homeless.

Mayor slams federal government for silence on social housing funds

Mayor Don Iveson says a crisis is looming in Edmonton where thousands of families could become homeless unless all levels of government act immediately. (CBC)

Mayor Don Iveson says he will ask city staff to come up with a plan to deal with a looming social housing crisis that could leave thousands of Edmonton families homeless.

Social housing agreements between the federal and provincial governments will expire over the next 10 to 15 years, which means units will no longer be subsidized.

Without renewing those agreements, the mayor said 11,000 social and affordable housing units could be at risk.

"We're talking about thousands of Edmontonians among our most vulnerable families at risk of becoming homeless in our city," Iveson said.

The mayor said he has talked with the premier about support for social housing, but has heard nothing from the federal government.

"Without (the agreements) we're going to have more homelessness, more social disorder, higher policing costs, more healthcare costs," Iveson said.

"Basically it's a nightmare scenario that none of our cities should experience."

The mayor's Social Housing Regeneration Advisory Group released a report this year that paints a grim picture of what will become of social housing units.

Because of some government agreements, some building managers have not been allowed to put any money away for maintenance, leaving the buildings in disrepair.

The mayor said those issues, combined with the expired agreements, has created a "perfect storm, with thousands and thousands of units in our city at risk."

Some of the units have been built on city land, and Iveson said he would like to see some creative solutions to help deal with the problem.

He suggested higher density buildings could replace existing subsidized housing units with a mix of social and regular market homes.

The advisory group also made 11 recommendations, including a review of the tax treatment of buildings with non-market housing.

Iveson plans to ask city staff to put those recommendations to work.

But, he said, the city can't take full responsibility for addressing the social housing crisis. He said the problem is too big and too expensive, and the province and the federal government must come through as well.

"If it gets downloaded onto us it'll break us."

Iveson said funds should have been in place yesterday to make sure cities across the country can make informed decisions about its social housing stock. 

Iveson hopes to hear from the feds before the next election.

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