Shovel Ready

Affordable housing for 5000 Edmonton families
in the next 5 years

The Edmonton Shovel Ready Working Group has a plan in place to build 5000 new units of affordable housing in the next five years. The City of Edmonton has committed major funding. With the support of Canada and Alberta, we’re ready to put shovels in the ground right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also clearly illustrated the critical role that housing plays in ensuring the health and safety of individuals, their communities and cities as a whole. The Edmonton Shovel Ready Working Group has a plan to build 5,000 units of affordable and supportive housing that will get people working, stimulate the economy, and help ensure the province stays open by staying healthy.

The City of Edmonton is committed to making projects shovel-ready and has contributed significant grant funding, serviced land, engagement services and expedited permitting. With the support of Canada and Alberta, we’re ready to put shovels in the ground right now!

What is affordable housing?

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.

The Need for Affordable Housing

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.

In its 2019 National Housing Strategy Act, the Government of Canada recognized that “the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right affirmed in international law.”
Filling the Need
To help fill this need, Edmonton’s non-profit housing providers and the City of Edmonton have a plan to build 5,000 new units of affordable housing in the next five years, including 900 units of supportive housing. Edmonton City Council has committed $140 million to this initiative, but we need $1.127 billion in provincial and federal investment to make it happen. This plan contributes to the fulfillment of federal and provincial affordable housing commitments. With the right support, we’re ready and able to start construction right now.

For Canada:

  • 5,000 units toward the target of constructing 100,000 new units in the next 10 years (as per Canada’s National Housing Strategy).
  • An opportunity to meaningfully invest in a municipality, collaborate with other orders of government, and empower a community to address housing needs (as per Canada’s National Housing Strategy).
  • Supports the municipal construction of new affordable housing units (as per the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development mandate letter).

For Alberta:

  • Significant job creation, particularly in the hard hit construction sector, where output has fall for three years in a row
  • Safer, more prosperous communities that set the conditions for investment and economic development.
  • Greater purchasing power for low-income households, allowing them to spend more in the local economy.
  • A chance to leverage P3 partnerships to make life better for Albertans.

Saving Taxpayers Money

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.

Affordable Housing as an Economic Stimulus

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. 

Creating Conditions for a Strong Economy

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. 

Making Life Better for All

Governments have a major role to play in setting the conditions for “a good life.” Government partnerships with private for-profit and non-profit organizations and collaboration among orders of government are fundamental to fulfilling that role, including providing support for the vulnerable. We agree with the Government of Alberta that P3 partnerships that combine government, private for-profit and non-profit resources pave the way for effective and efficient service delivery. Affordable housing is an area where private contractors and developers, civil society organizations and multiple orders of government can combine our strengths to create a powerful impact that benefits everyone.

About the Edmonton Shovel Ready Working Group

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.

Contact Us

We need your support to address the housing crisis in Edmonton.

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