Presentation to City Council Executive Committee, Agenda Item 6.14
June 27, 2012
By John Kolkman
Research Coordinator, Edmonton Social Planning Council
Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation on behalf of the Edmonton Social Planning Council. The Council is a non-profit social research organization that focuses on low income issues in our community.
Over the past few decades, a disproportionately large percentage of subsidized housing units especially for the hard to house - have been located in relatively few neighbourhoods in Edmontons north central area. These neighbourhoods also have amongst the highest rates of poverty in the City. It is therefore appropriate for actions to be taken to prevent poverty from being entrenched more deeply in these neighbourhoods.
Yet an investment funding pause for non-market housing in these neighbourhoods may not achieve the goal of a better housing mix and healthier, inclusive communities. Properly built and managed, non-market housing renews the housing stock by replacing aging, derelict, low end market housing and vacant lots with newly constructed housing that meets current building code standards. A non-market housing funding pause combined with stricter enforcement as called for by Key Action 7 may well result in even more boarded up properties and vacant lots in these neighbourhoods.
Key Action 2 in the Sustainable Development Report fails to recognize that non-market housing (NMH) covers a wide range of housing types. High stressed neighbourhoods (especially McCauley and Central McDougall) have a high ratio of a specific type of non-market housing that serves mainly single adults often with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and addictions. A pause on further housing development for these hard to house persons could be considered.
However, an investment pause on all non-market housing would also impact many other housing types. These include: 65 years plus seniors housing, family housing (2 or more bedrooms), affordable homeownership projects, mixed income projects, and small in-fill developments. Should an investment pause be adopted, these types of non-market housing should be exempted.
In recent years emergency shelters have increasingly been occupied by the chronically homeless, not only those facing housing emergencies. Key Action 8 should be revised to restate the commitment of Edmontons 10 Year Homeless Plan to reduce the number of shelter beds and mats by at least 50%. Building more permanent non-market housing throughout the City will alleviate some of the stress currently being experienced by neighbourhoods such as Boyle Street, McCauley and Central McDougall in which most of the emergency shelters are located.
The City needs to do more to attract market housing to the six neighbourhoods identified as stressed in the Sustainable Development Report, not only to support renovation and upgrades of existing housing, but also to incent new housing. This could include making City-owned land available at little or no cost, or by providing direct financial incentives to prospective homeowners and developers.
Finally, pro-active policies should be pursued that would ensure that non-market housing gets built in all City neighbourhoods. Most of the several dozen surplus school sites are located in neighbourhoods with little or no non-market housing. Many of the surplus school sites could be used for a broad range of non-market housing. Morever, developers of new neighbourhoods should be required to either build a certain percentage of affordable units into their developments, place land in an urban reserve for future non-market housing, or both.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation. I welcome your questions.