Social housing moratorium extended in inner-city neighbourhoods

City councillors extended a moratorium on social housing in Edmonton’s inner-city neighbourhoods Tuesday.

Mayor slams federal government for what he calls its silence on social housing

A moratorium on building social housing in five inner-city neighbourhoods in Edmonton will be extended one more year. (CBC)

City councillors extended a moratorium on social housing in Edmonton's inner-city neighbourhoods Tuesday.

Three years ago council suspended city investment in affordable social housing in McCauley, Eastwood, Queen Mary Park, Alberta Avenue and Central McDougall until November 2015.

On Tuesday, residents pleaded with council to extend the moratorium until a plan is in place to make sure the bulk of the city's social housing doesn't end up in their neighbourhoods.

"Our job is not to be the neighbourhood for social housing," said Nicholas Hermanson with the group Friends and Family of McCauley Society.

"What we're asking for a complete, cultural, city-wide change."

Support services manager Walter Trocenko said a healthy amount of social or affordable housing in any given neighbourhood is between five and 20 per cent of the total housing stock.

But residents told council their neighbourhoods carry more than their fair share of the burden.

Councillors voted to extend the moratorium for another year to buy some time to come up with a new plan for those neighbourhoods.

Council also asked city staff to investigate exemptions to the moratorium, like family style homes and developments that include a mix of social and non-social housing.

While councillors agreed not to pay for more affordable housing in inner-city neighbourhoods, they said more housing will be needed in other parts of the city to avoid a housing crisis.

According to Trocenko, the city will need to increase funds to its social housing program from $2.5 million per year to $25 million per year to meet the demand.

"It paints a very clear but grim picture," said Coun. Bev Esslinger.

Mayor slams feds over silence

The city would also need $75 million in support from the federal and provincial government.

The mayor expressed anger at what he calls the federal government's silence on the issue.

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.

"If we have the units, we could actually end homelessness in 10 years," he said.

"We're going to fall flat on our face on this goal because other orders of government haven't stepped up."

Coun. Scott McKeen pitched several ideas to come up with the funding, including the creation of a tax levy, as the city did for neighbourhood renewal.

He said the city also needs to address other issues associated with poverty and housing, including derelict properties.

"We have to become activists on some of this stuff and look at the most extreme measures," McKeen said.

City administration will bring forward an affordable housing strategy, which will be debated during budget deliberations in the fall.


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