Edmonton receives $14.9M from feds to build 68 supportive housing units, Iveson again urges province to cover operating costs

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Another 68 units of supportive housing will be built in Edmonton to address chronic homelessness thanks to a $14.9-million investment from the federal government.

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But in order to build the necessary amount of units to successfully end homelessness, Mayor Don Iveson said provincial funding to operate embedded services is crucial. Edmonton’s goal is to build 600 units of permanent, supportive housing by the end of 2022. It’s more than halfway there with 468 in the queue, but could be at risk of not receiving additional funding from the feds if the province doesn’t step up with operating support.

Under the second phase of the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative launched in the 2021 budget, $1 billion is up for grabs for affordable housing projects across the country. Edmonton was turned down on its first round application for $68.8 million to build 480 units because it didn’t have provincial backing. On Tuesday, Iveson urged the Alberta government to not let that happen again.

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“It would be a tremendous shame if additional federal dollars were left on the table because of the Government of Alberta’s inaction on embedded supports,” Iveson said Tuesday. “Solving chronic homelessness is not just about four walls and a roof, it’s also about treating the issues that have contributed to and led to that homelessness in the first place.”

Iveson wrote a letter to Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney Tuesday following the federal announcement to plead his case for annual funding to provide social service supports. The operating amount required for the 480 proposed units hasn’t been determined, but Iveson is calling on the province to start with an annual commitment of $7.8 million for the sites that have already been approved in order to “turn the lights on.” As of now, Homeward Trust has reallocated some of its funding for front-line services in order to provide the operating support in the absence of provincial dollars.

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With more than 2,400 Edmontonians experiencing homelessness, Iveson said in his letter that the need for supportive housing is growing and will also help reduce justice, health-care and law enforcement costs for the province.

“Without the support of your government, the city will be in a difficult position of leaving federal funds on the table and forgoing 68 units which would make a real, tangible difference in addressing homelessness and associated social disorder issues,” Iveson said in the letter. “In addition to helping the city’s most vulnerable, addressing housing issues has strong support across the business community and will play a significant role in revitalizing Downtown and other business districts’ competitiveness and attractiveness — all of which have been affected significantly by COVID-19.”

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Five supportive housing developments consisting of 210 units are already underway and set to be open early next year through a $35.2-million investment during the first stage of the Rapid Housing Initiative. With the $14.9 million in funding announced Tuesday, an additional one or two projects will be going ahead to build at least another 68 homes.

The city will now review its affordable housing plan to determine the best proposed projects to put the money toward so they can be built and up and running within a year. A report recommending the one or two projects to fund with the $14.9 million will be presented to council in August.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3 

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