Housing Options for Everyone Posted on October 31, 2016, by Miranda Jimmy Building an inclusive city means that people of all stages of life and income levels are able to live, work, and thrive here. Vibrant neighbourhoods and cities mean a mix of people, housing options, and modes of transportation. One way to achieve this vision is by making sure there are a mix of safe and affordable places to live in every neighbourhood. Affordable housing is a term that we hear a lot but what does it actually mean? In Edmonton, housing is considered to be “affordable” when it requires subsidies to build or operate. This can include all kinds of housing, from emergency shelters and supportive living options to social housing and supports for first time homeowners. In 2015, City Council approved a 10-year Affordable Housing Strategy that will guide the development of housing options throughout our city to 2025. Prior to the approval of this plan, the City of Edmonton worked to increase the number of affordable housing units and advocate for support for low-income Edmontonians through the Cornerstones 5-year plan from 2006 until 2010. During this time, the Cornerstones Plan encouraged the creation of 553 secondary suites and over 3,300 safe and affordable homes for people across our city. The second phase of the Cornerstones program, Cornerstones II, has been underway since 2012. It continues the successful Secondary Suite Granting Program which encourages Edmontonians to upgrade or build a secondary, garage, or garden suite on their property. A $3 million funding commitment to this program will lead to the construction of an additional 450 secondary suites by the end of 2016. Secondary suites are safe and affordable housing options for lower-income Edmontonians, but they can also provide important rental income and mortgage support for families who are looking to buy a home. Cornerstones II also includes the new Housing Opportunities Program for Edmonton, a granting program to help homeowners with major repairs necessary to maintain and improve their property. Finally, Cornerstones II includes the Curb Appeal Program. This program allows residents in priority neighbourhoods to apply for funds to make exterior improvements to their homes, garages, and landscaping. A final program under Cornerstones II is the creation of affordable housing for seniors on a fixed income. Surplus school sites in neighbourhoods throughout South and West Edmonton have been identified for construction of new housing developments for older adults, including Wedgewood Heights in Ward 5. Many people have differing opinions on affordable housing and investment in these housing programs. Sometimes residents fear the changes that secondary suites in traditionally single family neighbourhoods will bring. I think the success of these programs can be measured not only in the creation of communities composed of people in different stages of their lives and from various backgrounds and income levels but also in the improvements to existing housing. Funding improvements to homes makes more rental space available for Edmontonians to live in, improves the quality of houses that already exist, and makes our neighbourhoods places where everyone feels welcome. However, the Cornerstones II program is near the end of its term, and Provincial funding to municipalities to help increase affordable and transitional housing ended in 2009. To work towards next steps in ensuring safe and affordable housing in Edmonton, the city hosted a Roundtable on Housing in 2014. Participants from different sectors came together to outline their perspectives on issues and challenges in the Edmonton housing market, and how different people are affected. The summary report called for a new all-sector housing partnership approach, including all orders of government, community agencies, and support from the housing industry. They also noted a significant role for municipalities to set clear outcomes and priorities for housing, developing new housing, increasing affordable housing, and regenerating the older and existing social housing. It will be up to our next City Council to work to continue funding and support for affordable housing options in our city. Affordable housing is an important part of the ongoing End Poverty Strategy and construction of secondary suites has links to residential infill in our city. We will need to find a path forward to ensure that affordable homes are available to lower-income Edmontonians and provide support to ensure that existing homes and buildings are well maintained. I would love to hear from Ward 5 residents about affordable housing options in our neighbourhoods and throughout the city. What do you think is the best way forward to make sure every person in Edmonton has suitable housing? Are there other housing programs you would like to see in Ward 5? Send me an email or reach out to me on my website.