The Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) says the 2010 provincial budget contains major cuts for Alberta’s renters and puts the provincial plan to end homelessness in ten years at serious risk of failure.
“Last March, the provincial government committed to ending the scourge of homelessness in this province. Yet the last two provincial budgets have delivered less than one-third of the financial resources needed to achieve this worthy objective,” said John Kolkman, the ESPC’s Research and Policy Analysis Coordinator.
Kolkman notes that the government appointed Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness estimated the cost of ending homelessness at $3.3 billion over ten years (or $330 million per year). Yet the 2010 budget only commits to funding of $400 million during the first four years (or $100 million per year). “How can the government expect to meet its goal of ending homelessness without investing the necessary resources to bring it about?” he asks.
The bit of good budget news is the increase of $10.1 million in outreach support services for those being housed under the Ten Year Plan. “This helps those who are vulnerable retain their housing rather than fall back into homelessness,” said Kolkman.
The ESPC is also concerned about the deep cuts in provincial rent supplements in the last two budgets. “Rents remain high, yet assistance to help low income Albertans pay their rent has fallen from $144 million last year, to $88 million this year, and will be further reduced to $75 million next year. People who can’t afford to pay their rents risk becoming homeless. It is more cost-effective to help low income Albertans pay their rents before they become homeless than to only help them after they do,” he emphasized.
While some emergency housing assistance is available through social assistance (Alberta Works), this program is also facing a $47 million (8%) cut. “All in all, Budget 2010 spells trouble for Albertans who are homeless or unable to pay their rent,” Kolkman concludes.
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