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  • A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton - May 2019 Update

    A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton - May 2019 Update

    Read the full report (click on the link):A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton - May 2019 Update Click to download: 2016 Federal Census Neighbourhood Summary Click to download: Map: Prevalence of Low Income After-Tax (All Ages) Click to download: Map: Prevalence of Low Income After-Tax (0 to 17) INTRODUCTION Poverty affects people from all walks of life – young, old, employed, unemployed, those Read More
  • 2019 Vital Topics - Indigenous Women in Alberta

    2019 Vital Topics - Indigenous Women in Alberta

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton.  This edition focuses on Indigenous Women in Alberta.   Download: Vital Topic - Indigenous Women in Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - The Arts

    2018 Vital Topics - The Arts

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton.  This edition focuses on The Arts. ARTS include a wide variety of creative disciplines including: Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - Senior Women in Edmonton

    2018 Vital Topics - Senior Women in Edmonton

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton. Watch for these in each issue of Legacy in Action, and in the full issue Read More
  • Edmonton Vital Signs 2018

    Edmonton Vital Signs 2018

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, Vital Topics, that are timely and important to Edmonton - specifically Women, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Edmonton, Visible Minority Women, and Senior Women. Each of these topics appear in Read More
  • CBC News - Living wage in Edmonton is going up but that isn't good

    CBC News - Living wage in Edmonton is going up but that isn't good

    Radio Active with Adrienne Pan Interview with Sandra Ngo, Edmonton Social Planning Council. Click here to listen to the interview   Read More
  • Media Release: Edmonton Living Wage 2018 Update

    Media Release: Edmonton Living Wage 2018 Update

    June 21, 2018 For Immediate Release Edmonton Living Wage 2018 Update Contending with Costs For the first time in 2 years, the living wage for Edmonton has risen. For 2018, an income earner must make $16.48 per hour to support a family of four, an increase of $0.17 per hour from last year’s living wage. The living wage is intended Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

    2018 Vital Topics - Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton. Watch for these in each issue of Legacy in Action, and in the full issue Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - Visible Minority Women in Edmonton

    2018 Vital Topics - Visible Minority Women in Edmonton

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton. Watch for these in each issue of Legacy in Action, and in the full issue Read More
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by: John Kolkman, freelance 

The provincial and city governments are talking a good game when it comes to the urgent need to build more affordable housing. So why is so little progress being made?
Edmonton is in a housing affordability crisis. Vacancy rates are very low. Homelessness is growing. Earlier this month, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported an 18.8-per-cent increase in average rents, the highest yearly increase of all major Canadian cities. Yet the pace of efforts to address this crisis is glacial.

The provincial government announced its response to the Affordable Housing Task Force last April. A 10-year plan to end homelessness was announced in October. While additional monies are committed, the pace of new construction has not increased.

The latest setback in getting things moving happened at a Nov. 20 public hearing held by Edmonton city council's transportation and public works (TPW) committee. The committee heard representations on an inclusionary affordable housing policy proposed by the city administration. Rather than making a decision that would have gone to city council in mid-January, the TPW committee opted to engage in more closed-door consultations with the development industry. The proposed policy won't even be back on the TPW committee agenda until early March.

The development industry's opposition to the proposed policy is disappointing. There have already been extensive consultations with developers, home builders and other stakeholders. Further delays are definitely not helpful.

Adopting an inclusionary policy is the single most important decision council must make if Edmonton is to reduce reliance on emergency shelters and avoid future "tent cities." The first goal of such a policy is to ensure that long-term affordable housing -- integrated with and indistinguishable from market housing -- is built throughout the city.

The second goal is to provide a source of funds for the construction of additional affordable housing units. Housing developers could build a minimum of five-per-cent affordable housing units into all major residential developments. Alternatively, builders could either contribute to a reserve fund dedicated solely to constructing additional affordable housing or allow the city to purchase five per cent of the units at 80 per cent of their market value.

The proposed policy defines housing as affordable if households earning less than 80 per cent of the median income pay no more than 30 per cent of their gross income on rent. Not nearly enough housing meeting this definition was getting built even when market conditions were more favourable, let alone in today's overheated economy. Therefore, government leadership is essential.

Unlike Ontario and B.C. where provincial legislation specifically allows for inclusionary zoning, Alberta is in a legal grey zone. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association adopted a resolution in 2006 urging the province to amend the Municipal Government Act to include inclusionary zoning in their land use bylaws. The province's refusal leaves municipalities open to legal challenges.

Prior to 1979, the Edmonton required all new neighbourhoods to be built with at least five-per-cent social housing which -- combined with federal and provincial housing dollars available at that time -- ensured that low-cost housing was built in all older suburbs. Unfortunately, the policy was challenged in the courts and struck down.

The demise of this policy resulted in many newer suburbs being built without any affordable housing units. When combined with the almost total withdrawal of the federal and provincial affordable housing dollars in the early 1990s, this has directly led to the housing crisis we find ourselves in today.

Edmonton's proposed policy is a modest one. The five-per-cent affordable housing requirement in major residential developments is low compared to the 20-per-cent requirement in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

Finding suitable locations for new affordable housing will be considerably more difficult unless a mechanism is found to provide for it. Much of the affordable housing built in the past decade has been located in only a handful of neighbourhoods, mostly north and east of the downtown core.

Opposition to accepting more affordable housing is growing in these neighbourhoods.

Unfortunately, advocates for affordable housing have not always done their cause any favours. Let's stop using terms like "gentrification" to label residents of lower-income neighbourhoods that oppose affordable housing projects. This only gets people riled up. Both the city and affordable-housing providers need to do a better job communicating with neighbourhood residents before decisions on housing projects are made.

A failure to provide safe, affordable long-term housing means only one thing -- more Band-Aid solutions such as shelters. Ensuring that all Edmontonians have safe, affordable, long-term housing is essential.

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