A day after the federal government committed to spending $1 billion to help house people living on the streets, Edmonton’s mayor is asking for close to a third of that funding.
“The federal government’s announcement is a big step, and [doesn’t] quite get us there, but they’re moving mountains to try to meet our level of ambition — which is encouraging — and we will try to deliver the results,” Don Iveson said on Tuesday.
Iveson said he wrote a letter late Monday to Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of families, children and social development, asking for almost $387 million to help Alberta’s capital.
“The City of Edmonton has worked with our housing partners to find a model appropriate for Edmonton’s context,” the letter says in part.
“We have determined that we request a total of $386.6 million to address a spectrum of affordable housing needs,” Iveson wrote.
“Two-hundred-million dollars for 2,000 units of non-market affordable housing over the next three years… $129 million to convert the capital cost associated with acquiring and converting 600 existing hotel rooms to temporary and eventually permanent supportive housing… $57.6 million to fund the construction of 254 units of new permanent supportive housing on previously identified city-owned sites.”
Iveson said the plan targets the needs of 1,900 people with precarious or no housing, with about 600 of those people being the most vulnerable.
While the city has housed close to 900 people since March, it still estimates 180 new people will become homeless each month.
“That’s a number that is expected to get worse as the economic crisis persists, and the [COVID-19] pandemic runs on and we get into winter here” Iveson said.
The mayor referred to the combination of economic uncertainty and a pandemic as a “double-whammy.” He said it’s why he wanted to send the letter to Ottawa, to show how urgent the situation in Edmonton is.
Iveson said he is thankful for the federal government’s $1-billion commitment, but he also hopes Ottawa will consider additional funding to deal with this rising “short-term” challenge.
The federal government program will create 3,000 new affordable housing units across Canada, and Ottawa wants all the funds committed by the end of March 2021, when the federal fiscal year finishes.
Municipalities, provinces, territories, Indigenous governing bodies and agencies, as well as non-profit organizations, can tap into the money that for now appears to be a one-time program.
Iveson said the federal government is still putting together an application process, but it will be a streamlined process.
“I suspect there will be a scramble for this billion dollars,” he said.
“The mayors have all been preparing staff to go after distressed properties right now, so I think we can move through that billion dollars pretty quickly.”
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