Local officials are reacting to the announcement of an injection of funding towards affordable housing in the province.
The Alberta government announced they will be investing $1.2 billion towards affordable housing after a study was conducted of 1,800 tenants and housing providers.
The money will be invested over the course of five years and the money will go towards improvements of the systems 70,000 housing units throughout the province and the construction of an additional 4,100 units by 2021. Alberta was previously one of only two provinces to not have an affordable housing strategy.
Chairman of the Red Deer Housing Authority Board Don Wielinga hopes Red Deer will benefit from this investment.
“We have lobbied for it and I am hoping that Red Deer will see some of that $1.2 billion,” he said. “Edmonton and Calgary are big cities and I am hoping there is something for Red Deer. I am a little dubious but I am hoping as time goes on there will be an announcement of that money going to Red Deer.”
Wielinga noted there are currently 700 people on the Housing Authority’s wait list for affordable housing and many of the housing units in Red Deer require significant renovation before they are habitable.
“For our housing that we have in Red Deer, I’m hoping that some of the $1.2 billion will provide some money to repair some of the homes that aren’t open right now due to the fact we don’t have the money to renovate them,” he said. “A lot of these units that we own are City-owned units and they are in disrepair. We need money to bring them up to standards for an average person.”
He added depending on the amount of money that comes into Red Deer, it may be feasible to demolish unusable properties and possibly built 12-plex buildings which, “Can give people the kind of housing they deserve.”
The Alberta Government also announced they will be exploring mixed-income models for affordable housing which would allow tenants to pay an adjusted rent. This would allow them to stay in their current homes even if they are earning above the affordable housing income rates.
“Previously tenants were asked to leave if they went over a certain income bracket, if they got a better job or received money,” Wielinga said. “Now, the government is piloting this mixed-model which will allow tenants to pay an adjusted rent. They can choose to stay in their homes.
“That is a great idea because for a lot of us, our home is our foundation and if you have a family it can be advantageous not to move even if you are making more money. I think it is a great idea because it is recognizing the strength in Alberta families.”
Under the new legislation, tenants would also be able to have a higher asset limit. Previously, affordable housing tenants could only have assets under $7,000. This has been raised to $25,000.
“Tenants tell me they want to get a better job and be able to save up for their family’s future,” Tenant Liaison for the Calgary Housing Authority Tracey McLean-Schultz said. “But the existing housing system isn’t designed for that and tenants risk losing their home if they do. These changes mean we can begin to break the cycle of poverty.”
While it has not been announced how this will affect affordable housing in Red Deer, Lori Sigurdson, minister of Seniors and Housing, promises this new legislation will help low-income Albertans plan for the future.
“Living in government-supported housing shouldn’t stand in the way of people who want a better job or to save for the future. With the new affordable housing strategy, our government is standing behind families, not in their way. New tools will help people save, get better jobs and live in safe, secure homes,” she said.