IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association advocate to the Government of Alberta to:
- Invest immediately in the development of new affordable housing units as a means to create jobs, stimulate the economy, maximize the funding that can be leveraged from the Government of Canada, and support those most vulnerable to the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
- Invest immediately in the cost- effective health and support services needed to help those with complex needs get housed and stay housed, resulting in a visible reduction in homelessness and a drastic savings in health, justice, and law enforcement costs.
- Introduce mandatory operation guidelines for all emergency shelters in order to maximize utilization rates through consideration of design and safety best practices and reduce social disorder related to shelter practices and people sleeping outside. These guidelines should address the challenges and barriers that people sleeping outside face when trying to access shelter services, such as the lack of continuous stay options, storage space for personal belongings, accommodation for pets and couples, inappropriate or insensitive cultural practices, fear of violence and for personal safety, and inconsistent barring practices.
WHEREAS the provision of affordable housing and addressing homelessness falls within Federal and Provincial spheres of jurisdiction;
WHEREAS the Government of Canada recognized that adequate housing is a fundamental human right affirmed in international law, and that housing is essential to the inherent dignity and well-being of the person and to building sustainable and inclusive communities;
WHEREAS the Government of Canada renewed their support for affordable housing, and reducing chronic homelessness nationally by 50% by fiscal year 2027 to 2028, through the National Housing Strategy and a commitment to invest $40 billion in capital over 10 years;
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta signaled its commitment to build more affordable housing in Alberta’s Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy, and the 2020-23 Strategic Plan further states that the province will ensure the availability of more affordable housing, and will support affordable and accessible housing for those Albertans most in need;
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta, through the Alberta Social Housing Corporation, signed in April 2018 a bilateral agreement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that will provide Alberta with almost $340 million in federal funding for affordable housing from 2019 to 2028.
WHEREAS according to the Government of Alberta’s Economic Multiplier Analysis, every $1 invested in building affordable housing creates $1.74 in total economic output;
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta’s capital investments in affordable housing are projected to significantly decline between 2020 to 2023, while the need for supporting Alberta’s most vulnerable populations is expected to increase throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis;
WHEREAS the purpose of municipalities are to develop and maintain safe and viable communities, and provide services and facilities that are necessary as established through Alberta’s Municipal Government Act; and local residents, businesses, and communities are expressing concerns to their municipalities about the negative impact that homelessness is having on both individuals experiencing homelessness and the broader community;
WHEREAS growing demands for affordable housing cannot be achieved by any single order of government, but municipalities continue to work in partnership with a wide range of private and non-profit providers to help develop, manage and maintain the supply of affordable housing.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments have had traditional roles in the provision of services in their jurisdictions. However, in recent decades, there has been increasing overlap and greater complexity through the transfer or assumption of responsibilities to municipalities without the resources to support them. An example is affordable housing programs that have traditionally been provided and funded by higher-order governments (provincial and federal) but are now seeing greater required involvement by municipalities.
Municipalities are committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing for vulnerable populations and supporting homeless populations with complex needs (which may include shelter options, bridge housing, modular housing and permanent supportive housing), while recognizing that this requires the strategic and coordinated actions of a number of active partners including the federal and provincial governments, municipalities, non-profit developers, contracted social service agencies, and private sector builders.
Municipalities further recognize that increasing the supply of affordable housing and providing all the necessary homelessness supports cannot be sustained by any single order of government or organization, as this requires dedicated, and increased sources of funding, which must be provided by all orders of government.
The Government of Alberta’s 2020-23 Capital Plan Details by Ministry unfortunately shows a declining investment planned across a number of Ministry of Seniors and Housing capital affordable housing portfolios (Planning for Affordable Housing; Family and Community Housing Development and Renewal; Indigenous Housing Capital Program; New Housing Supply; Preservation; and Seniors Housing Development and Renewal). From a total of $215.7M in 2020-21, down to $123.1M in 2021-22, and down further to $77.9M in 2022-23.
On February 28, 2020, AUMA released its Preliminary Analysis of the Government of Alberta’s 2020 Budget,which included the following comments regarding Affordable Housing:
“AUMA is very concerned to see significant cuts to capital investment in affordable housing for both the development of new units, as well as the maintenance and repair of existing units. Addressing Alberta’s lack of affordable housing is a priority for municipalities. In addition to stimulating employment and economic growth, capital investment in affordable housing yields long-term savings for all levels of government due to decreased use of health services, police and justice services, child welfare, and other services such as homeless shelters, income supports, and addictions and mental health supports.”
On June 29, 2016, AUMA advanced the following submission to inform the provincial affordable housing strategy, which stated the following which is as relevant today as it was four years ago:
“Action is needed to address the critical shortage in the provincial supply of affordable housing. In addition to direct investment, the province can use its financial and policy levers to develop strategies and incentives that will increase the availability of affordable housing options through renovation, repair, and new construction of market housing, affordable housing, social housing, and permanent supportive housing units”.
The response from the Minister of Seniors and Housing states that the province will continue to work with the federal government to access funding for affordable housing under the Canada-Alberta bilateral agreement, but also signals that the province is “taking action now to get spending under control.” The Minister’s response also references the Affordable Housing Review Panel, as well as the federal Rapid Housing Initiative, which provided $24.6M and $17.3M in funding to Calgary and Edmonton, respectively, to provide permanent supportive housing. Finally, the Minister outlines the current provincial funding for homeless supports provided through the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Notably, the response does not address the request to introduce mandatory operation guidelines for all emergency shelters.
The AUMA Board approved taking the following action regarding the province’s response:
- Categorize the response as ““intent not met – further action will be taken”.
- Approve sending a letter to the Minister of Community and Social Supports reiterating the need for mandatory operation guidelines for all homeless shelters.
- Monitor the issue and report on the progress of the development of the strategic affordable housing plan (within the context of the Technical Housing Advisory Team’s non-disclosure agreement). Once this plan is formally released, the Safe and Healthy Communities Committee will provide feedback and recommendations on the plan for the Board’s consideration.
This resolution aligns with previous AUMA advocacy around affordable housing. If this resolution is passed, it would be forwarded to the Government of Alberta for response and further advocacy would be recommended to AUMA’s Board by the Safe and Healthy Communities Committee within the context of related priorities and positions.