Proper social housing, not moratorium, what city needs, says advocate
The need for social housing is dire, says John Whittaker, with ECOHH.
Continuing a moratorium on social housing in five central Edmonton neighbourhoods is not the right path for the city to pursue, according to a group that advocates for the homeless and affordable housing.
"Proper housing is the answer, not the problem," said John Whittaker, who sits on the board of the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.
The need for affordable social housing in the city is dire, Whittaker said, but that has nothing to do with the moratorium.
"For the past 10 years, almost no money has gone in from governments into social housing," he said. "Which is why you're seeing more people in the streets, which is why we see the homeless count increase each year."
But the moratorium does have an impact. Whittaker said it hampers efforts by developers, community groups and agencies that build housing to move forward with projects.
"Right now, we build it where the people are, and where the cost of land will allow you to put together a development," he said.
In Edmonton, the five inner-city neighbourhoods covered by the moratorium meet that criteria.
For more than three years, the city has not allowed new non-market housing projects, including group homes or shelters, to be built in the Alberta Avenue, Eastwood, Central McDougall, Queen Mark Park and McCauley neighbourhoods.
City council voted Tuesday to extend the moratorium while administration works with the communities on plans to revitalize neighbourhoods and reduce the concentration of poverty.
"Our housing branch will now go back into those communities," Coun. Ben 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 the fall that will include recommendations about when the moratorium should end.
"All we're getting in the moratorium is a demonstration that a small group of community leagues can exert enough political pressure on a council to block the work of the social agencies and faith groups," Whittaker said.
"The moratorium is an angry response from the communities that are bearing the brunt of much of the city's poverty," he said. "But the answer to this is not to shut the door. The answer to poverty is to deal with it, to try and get people treated, to try and get them housed."