Posted on Sep 25, 2020
HISTORIC INVESTMENT IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING NEEDED FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY
EDMONTON -- Alberta’s NDP Caucus will put forward an affordable housing strategy after UCP cuts to rental assistance and housing management bodies puts more Albertans at risk of homelessness.
The UCP government’s affordable housing panel is scheduled to submit a report at the end of the month. But concerns that the UCP panel has not adequately incorporated feedback from municipalities and stakeholders prompted Alberta’s NDP Caucus to develop an alternate plan that reflects stakeholder feedback.
“We’re not going to wait around while the UCP continues to cut supports for the most vulnerable while handing over billions to already profitable corporations,” said Lori Sigurdson, NDP Critic for Seniors and Housing. “Without an immediate and aggressive plan for affordable housing, we could see more and more Albertans pushed into homelessness.”
In Budget 2019, the UCP cut funding for Rental Assistance by 24% and housing management bodies by 3.5%. In Budget 2020, the UCP cut funding for housing maintenance by $53 million and did not allocate any new capital funding for affordable housing.
“A good place for the UCP to start is to reverse the damage they have already done,” said Sigurdson.
Once the UCP’s plan is announced, the NDP will respond with a housing strategy of their own. Lori Sigurdson and Marie Renaud have been in meetings with housing stakeholders about what they want to see in a provincial housing strategy.
Lori Sigurdson said, “We have already heard great ideas from so many Albertans who also submitted ideas to the UCP’s panel on how to improve housing. If these innovative solutions are not given the platform they deserve by the UCP, we will ensure they are properly proposed and debated in the fall.”
The impact of the UCP’s cuts are exacerbated by COVID-19. Last week, over 500 Calgarians in supportive housing received eviction notices. A COVID-19 outbreak linked to the Hope Mission shelter in Edmonton has created anxiety around the spread of COVID-19 amongst Edmonton’s unhoused community. Municipalities have made continued calls to the provincial and federal governments for additional support. Yet, only the federal government has responded with funding while Jason Kenney and the UCP have not.
“The UCP’s response to poverty has been to focus on funding shelters while cutting affordable housing. That is short sighted and actually makes things worse in the long term,” said Marie Renaud, NDP critic for Community and Social Services. “We’re still in a pandemic and housing is essential to both our economic recovery and public health. When people have a home they can physically distance and self isolate when necessary.”
Marie Renaud also highlighted how changes to Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) will make accessing housing more difficult for vulnerable communities.
“I hope the UCP’s report clearly states that there should be no more harmful changes to AISH. Many people on AISH have reached out to me and are already worried about being able to make it by,” said Renaud.