City moves forward on new affordable housing model

  • Feb. 10, 2016 3:29 p.m.

This three-part series will examine the complexities of the current affordable housing shortage in Red Deer that has the potential to be an emerging crisis if it is not addressed.

Improving accessibility for users and helping to streamline funding are just some of the goals the City is hoping to reach in terms of homelessness and affordable housing by moving to a new framework.

In the spring of 2014 the Red Deer & District Community Foundation released a report entitled ‘Red Deer Housing Framework Options’.

“The report was prompted after community stakeholders recognized that we have an affordable housing shortage in Red Deer currently, but they also looked ahead to the future realizing there are some factors which are coming into play both now and more so in the future which will exacerbate that affordable housing shortage,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

“We needed to find a collaborative way to work together as a community – not only to resolve some of the challenges in the current system, but to actually develop a model that would not only position Red Deer for today, but would position Red Deer for the future on the social front.”

She added this report does that and the City is moving towards adopting that model.

“There are aspects in the current model that resolved the issue of the day. The way we have navigated through affordable housing in the community is we have had an ad hoc, piece-meal approach to it, which responded to a need of the day which is positive. But our population has grown substantially. Red Deer has become positioned as a regional service hub for Central Alberta, and there have been other economic factors and provincial policy which has played into the challenges that we have with our existing affordable housing shortage,” said Veer. “We are also at that watershed moment of a small city becoming a larger city. We need to modernize the way we are delivering services – not only to address the existing shortage but also to position us in the future.”

For example, in the current model, it shows that one of the challenges the community is faced with is there is an existing shortage of available affordable housing units. “The other challenge in our system right now is that from a user perspective, it is often difficult for individuals and families in need of affordable housing to navigate through what can be a very complex system,” said Veer. “As much as there is a shortage, it’s often hard for them to know who to go to in order to ensure they have adequate and safe housing that is appropriate for their life circumstances.”

Veer added the current model also does not allow how capital grants are allocated and who is accountable for them.

She added with the current model there is a lack of clear governance, responsibility and decision making authority with respect to affordable housing and accountability in terms of addressing the shortfall of affordable housing stock. Veer said there is also a lack of planning for financial sustainability for affordable housing stock, accountability for addressing the shortfall and transparency and accountability of responding to emerging issues.

“The single greatest risk to staying the same is that the existing affordable housing stock shortage that we know today will be significantly magnified in the coming years.”

Earlier this year, the City announced a new Systems Framework for Housing and Supports system. The report outlines an improved system to better coordinate local services and serve individuals experiencing homelessness.

The review of the current housing and supports system included a look at current programs and gaps, housing infrastructure, funding mandates, data analysis, as well as consultation with agencies and clients.

The new system will include a single entry point for housing programs and an emphasis on matching the right person with the right program.

“This is very much taking a step forward with respect in aspiring to the bigger picture,” said Veer.

In addition, Veer added another risk to the already affordable housing shortage are the number of public housing units that are on a capital retention policy. This means that when the capital retention policy expires on those developments, they could be turned into private housing stock.

The community saw that happen in 2007 with Monarch Place. Originally built as affordable housing and owned by Innovative Housing Society, after a period of time units in the Kentwood complex were sold as private condos and many residents were forced to move out of the building.

Meanwhile, Veer added the City has been working in strong partnership with local stakeholders to put the new model in place.

“The City has an adopted position, the community has been working towards implementation and we are ultimately waiting for a provincial government decision.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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