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‘Deeply disappointed’: Mayors, minister pen letter to feds over lack of funding for housing

The mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities, along with a provincial minister, sent a letter to the federal government decrying a lack of funding awarded to address housing.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services penned the letter to the new Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser on July 27.

The letter states that they were notified of Alberta’s successful applications for Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) funding. The $38.3 million in funding received from the federal government was only 2.5 per cent of the $1.5 billion available, and allows for 200 of the 5,200 units funded, the letter read.

“Given that Alberta is Canada’s fourth largest province representing approximately 12 per cent of Canada’s total population, we find these disproportionate results very troubling,” the letter reads.

Net migration into Alberta was 51,718 in the first quarter of 2023, according to Alberta’s Economic Dashboard. Some experts have Alberta’s population expected to surpass five million by 2025.  Calgary economic projections have 80,000 people moving to the city by 2026. Recently, Royal LePage had both Edmonton and Calgary housing searches up dramatically.

Mayor Gondek said that only six of 39 Alberta applications to the Rapid Housing Initiative were approved.

“Let me just add that, as cities across the country, we’ve been very grateful that things like the rapid housing initiative were launched, that there’s a housing accelerator fund,” she said.

“However, there appears to be a bit of a disparity.”

The Calgary Real Estate Board’s July benchmark price for a Calgary home hit $567,700. The inventory of homes is at 3,488, or a 34.8 per cent decrease compared with July 2022. It represents roughly 1.32 months of supply, CREB said.

Dealing with unhoused populations

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi posted that there are 3,100 unhoused people in Edmonton, with 60 per cent of them identifying at Indigenous. He said they’d requested $67 million in funding to help develop 288 units in seven projects.

“It is essential that the Federal Government understand the specific context in the prairies, and ensure that Alberta’s big cities receive equitable funding allocations,” Sohi wrote.

Calgary Skyview MP George Chahal answered questions on the letter Tuesday during a press conference in Calgary on a new technology investment.

He said the federal government has made a number of different housing announcements over the past year.

“So, we’re focused, through our national housing strategy, to work closely with municipalities across the country, and also further collaborate with the provincial government to ensure that we can build more housing, supply more housing, but also make sure that we can provide market and non-market more affordable housing options,” Chahal said.

Mayor Gondek said Chahal has been a Calgary city councillor in the past and said she believes he’s passionate about making sure the city gets its fair share.

“I think it’s a matter of ensuring that local government is able to better connect with both provincial and federal governments,” she said.

Calgary, Edmonton housing l… by Darren Krause