City to begin on new affordable housing model within six months

  • Feb. 17, 2016 3:38 p.m.

This three-part series has examined 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.

The City of Red Deer is working towards a new model for tackling the issue of affordable housing.

The model the City is moving towards comes from a report from the Red Deer & District Community Foundation titled ‘Red Deer Housing Options Framework’.

“We are talking about two things in this new model – one is asset management and improving coordination of non-market housing development and maintenance,” said Sarah Cockerill, director of community services for the City. “We are also talking about wrap-around services (addiction services, income supports, etc.) that help maintain housing for people. These things will create a totally integrated approach to housing delivery.”

She added it is timely that the City moves forward on this new affordable housing model.

“From the grassroots to the stakeholders who are working in both asset management and service delivery – they are trying hard to coordinate their efforts in an informal way,” said Cockerill. “The City recently adopted our Social Policy Framework and in it we use that as a lens to evaluate our role and responsibility in developing that governance framework and the integrated delivery model with the housing wrap-around supports.

“Through that model it is recommended that we take a shared level of responsibility. I think it would be fair to say that we don’t know it all and we are not operating in the field to the greatest extent. We really need the work of the stakeholders and partners to help us transition into this new model. We don’t have a preconceived idea of what that structure looks like. We know what we want the outcome to look like, but how that is put together and how the City works in a shared level of responsibility to get there will absolutely include our key partners and stakeholders.”

Mayor Tara Veer added the Community Foundation report identifies a number of recommendations to implement a broader community housing model which fulfills the objectives of sustainability in affordable housing as well as fulfilling objectives of clear accountability and transparency for the governance of housing and for the allocations of public housing funds.

“There are a couple of key recommendations in the report – among them is establishing a community governance model where users of public housing would have the single point of entry – but really it would be a citizen-led body in partnership with stakeholders who deliver affordable housing units and who provide service delivery,” she said. “Ultimately that body would adjudicate the grants that come from provincial and federal orders of government and hopefully provide operating allocations as well in the future to ensure there is a holistic approach, not only to affordable housing but also support services for individuals in public housing.”

Veer added one of the aspects of the new governing body would be not only asset management but asset development as well.

“Maintaining the affordable housing assets the community has and making sure they are to a safe standard and also having coordinated asset development is really the key in terms of getting ahead of the curve – not only addressing the existing shortage in affordable housing but in planning for the long run as the community grows.”

Moving towards the new plan will be a benefit to the community as a whole.

“Ultimately the members of the public see the face of the vulnerable in our community and find themselves asking the question, what is the government doing to respond to the needs of the vulnerable in our community? Obviously there are many front line agencies, charities and government services which directly serve the vulnerable in our community, but what has become very clear to me particularly since becoming mayor, is the fact that local government, provincial government and the federal government all own pieces with respect to this issue. There is a lack of sense of who is accountable not only to meeting the existing needs, but to address root issues,” said Veer. “When I think of our aspiration to move to a governance model that is accountable, transparent, sustainable and user-friendly, this model is really our community’s key watershed moment where for us to get ahead of the issue. This is our best approach in order to address it.”

Moving forward, Cockerill said the City will begin discussions with stakeholders and partners and coordinate the development of what the new model will look like.

“We would like to have that work done very shortly – within six months. There have been a lot of studies and work that has already been done in the last 15 years and we’re going to take that on as soon as possible.”