FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2020
EDMONTON - A new report released by the Edmonton Social Planning Council shows that the toll of households placed on long waiting lists for rental assistance is high and action is urgently needed.
The High Cost of Waiting: Tenant-Focused Solutions to Enhance Housing Affordability sets out to document the impacts on quality of life for households who have to wait for prolonged periods of time and find the best solutions for reducing wait times and improving housing affordability. Excessively long waits for affordable rental accommodations has been one of the most intractable challenges facing low income Edmonton households.
“Long wait times forces many people to pay market rents for housing they can’t afford, or to live in units that substandard, unsafe or overcrowded,” says John Kolkman, Research Associate for the Edmonton Social Planning Council and principal author of the report. About 100 people currently on the Capital Region Housing wait list attended focus groups and provided email responses describing their experiences of having to wait in many cases for years to obtain help paying their rents, and the toll this is taking on their mental and financial health.
“We heard that the stress of having to wait for assistance and the financial worries of having to provide for their families had enormous negative impacts on their quality of life,” says Kolkman. “In some cases people became homeless while waiting and more many are at severe risk of becoming homeless.”
The report notes the federal government is proposing a Canada Housing Benefit with matching federal and provincial dollars as a key component of a National Housing Strategy. The ESPC report contains specific recommendations on how such a benefit should be funded and designed to best shrink wait lists. Funding should be sufficient to allow all households who qualify based on their household income receive rental assistance on a timely basis, similar to what is currently the norm for existing programs like child care subsidies and income support.
Nevertheless, there is uncertainty about the Alberta government’s commitment to its share of the funding. “Instead of cost-matching, the 24% cut in rental assistance announced in the October 2019 Alberta Budget suggests that the province is planning to use the new federal dollars to replace at least some existing provincial dollars,” says Kolkman. “Without proper funding from both orders of government, the effectiveness in reducing wait times of those being forced to wait will be severely compromised.”
Brett Lambert, Community Engagement Coordinator,
Edmonton Social Planning Council