City Council has rejected a proposal that would have provided $50,000 in rent subsidies to clients at Asooahum Crossing.
Council voted at their regular Council meeting on Feb. 20th 8-1 to not provide the one-time cash influx. Coun. Ken Johnston was the only Councillor who supported providing the rent supplement.
Currently, only four out of a possible 16 units at the affordable housing facility are occupied at the centre, which caters to low-income aboriginal people.
The Red Deer Native Friendship Society (RDNFC) and the Red Deer Housing Authority (RDHA) previously had made a request on Jan. 22nd for a one-time $50,000 rent supplement from the City. Council, at that time, tabled the discussion for four weeks to gather information.
The RDHA oversees rent supplements locally, and stated that the investment from the City would make an immediate difference in the community. According to documents provided to Council, RDHA is currently, however, unable to predict the success that the $50,0000 investment will have on an ongoing basis.
Typically, rent supplements are provided by the Province of Alberta and Mayor Tara Veer has been in contact with Red Deer-North MLA Kim Schreiner in order to advocate for a more secure funding model for those who need rent supplements.
Council overwhelmingly stated that although rent supplements are needed in this instance, it is in the purview of the Province to provide this.
It was suggested that if Council were to provide this funding, it would set a precedent for other community groups to also ask for similar funding.
“This issue is rooted in the fact that this City can’t take precedent in subsidizing rent because it would become an expectation for other organizations,” Coun. Lawrence Lee said.
Lee added the City needs to support the RDHA and the RDNFC by focusing its energy on advocating the Provincial and Federal government.
He added the decision to not providing the funding is, “A tough one but the right thing to do”.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes added that sometimes Council has to, “Take difficult positions”, but this is an opportunity for Council, and other Councils, to continue a conversation on how to provide sustainable and ongoing funding models.
Johnston argued that when Council discusses issues like this one, it is difficult because process is on one hand and people are on the other.
“Housing and hope are intertwined and sometimes in our goals of sustainability, we lose sight of need,” he said.
Coun. Vesna Higham said the City has had to deal with too many issues that have been “downloaded” from the Provincial level and said this is a Provincial and Federal issue financially.
She added that it is important the City provides a “strong voice”, along with the RDHA and the RDNFS, to the Province to take action.
Mayor Veer added there are multiple agencies throughout the City that would look for rent supplements if the funding was provided, but it remains important for the City to address housing gaps.
“I think it is important that we strongly advocate with and for the Red Deer Native Friendship Society and the RDHA to make a case to the Provincial Government.”