Affordable housing is a broad term for a range of housing options offered below market price. Lower-cost options help low-income households maintain financial stability and mitigate the serious personal and societal consequences of homelessness and housing insecurity. Supportive housing is a type of housing that provides continuous support to people who have experienced homelessness, combining subsidized rent with on-site health and social services.
Even before the pandemic, Albertans were facing tough times. In 2019, average take-home pay was $6,400 lower per year than it was in 2015. The rate of bankruptcy had risen by more than 25% in the last six years. Meanwhile, housing costs haven’t decreased, and people are struggling to make ends meet. Around 55,000 households in Edmonton are in core housing need, meaning more than 30% of their income goes toward maintaining adequate housing.
Under these circumstances, unexpected job loss — as we’ve seen on a mass scale in the COVID-19 pandemic — can lead to non-payment of rent and eviction. Households are unable to plan ahead or build savings to get through an emergency because their income is exhausted on meeting basic needs.
Affordable Housing is a human right.
Building affordable and supportive housing requires investment but maintaining the status quo costs more.
Research shows that children who grow up in low income households are more likely to have low incomes as adults, perpetuating a costly cycle. Compared to their higher-income peers, people living in poverty pay less taxes, require more health and justice system services, and are less able to participate in the workforce and the community. These effects ripple, diminishing the strength and flexibility of our workforce, our public systems, our economy and our civil society. Every dollar spent on interventions to combat child poverty, including affordable housing, saves between $3 and $9 down the road in health, justice and social support costs.
Homelessness is also costly. The City of Edmonton spends $2 million annually alone on responding to homeless encampments. Meanwhile, just one person living on the streets can cost taxpayers up to $100,000 a year in emergency room expenses, law enforcement, and other preventable costs. On top of the cost to taxpayers, the strain on our healthcare and justice systems caused by unmet housing need makes it harder for those systems to work as they should. Every dollar spent on Housing First programs, including supportive housing, will save $4 in health care and justice costs.
Job losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and drop in oil prices has pushed the Edmonton unemployment rate in excess of 13% as of mid 2020, the highest rate since the mid-1990s. But an investment in 5,000 units of affordable and supportive housing would help create nearly 7000 jobs in construction, real estate, property management, trucking, and healthcare. With the right infrastructure investment, construction of affordable housing in Edmonton will put $452 million into the pockets of working Albertans.
Social disorder discourages investment. Loitering, needle debris, derelict properties and other signs of struggle in a particular area can make people feel unsafe, which in turn makes them less likely to frequent, invest in or open businesses in those areas. But social disorder related to homelessness is a symptom of a lack of appropriate housing and support. Our proposal will help address the conditions that create this kind of social disorder and keep Alberta open for business and firing on all economic cylinders.
Affordable housing provides the stability for many Albertans to be able and willing to spend in the local economy. Restaurant servers, small engine repair-persons, retail clerks, hairstylists and barbers are just some examples of hardworking Edmontonians who provide valuable services but still can’t afford a one-bedroom apartment on a single income.
Investments in affordable housing can have a lasting impact by preventing homelessness, creating jobs, and increasing families’ purchasing power.
We are leading providers of non-profit housing in Edmonton – and we’ve learned we’re most effective when we all work together. We formed our working group to tackle Edmonton’s urgent need for affordable housing and improve housing services for people and families in Edmonton who need them.
Our group is comprised of primary players in affordable housing provision in Edmonton. We have been collaborating and working hard together for many years to get to this position – and we are ready to go. We aren’t talking about years of planning and consultation – we’re talking about 5000 new affordable housing units in the next five years. With the support of Alberta and Canada, we will make this happen.
We need your support to address the housing crisis in Edmonton.