Alberta welcomes new federal housing plans, but says 'more significant' funding needed

‘We need more significant money brought to the table by the federal government to support both the province and municipalities ambition when it comes to addressing the affordable housing crisis,’ said Alberta Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon

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Alberta’s minister responsible for housing says the policies in this week’s fall economic statement from the federal government came up short relative to housing needs among provinces.

On Tuesday, Ottawa unveiled a series of new changes aimed at addressing the growing issues around housing in Canada.

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Those measures included increased federal financing for construction of new rental units, $1 billion in new federal grants to build affordable housing, changes to the ‘stress test’ around mortgages, and plans to regulate short-term vacation rentals.

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At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Alberta Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon said he was happy to see Ottawa invest in housing in any way, but added what was presented by Ottawa came up short of needs.

“It appears to be nowhere near adequate for the challenges that provinces are facing when it comes to a bulk affordable, attainable housing stock that declined across this country,” he said.

“We need more significant money brought to the table by the federal government to support both the province and municipalities ambition when it comes to addressing the affordable housing crisis.”

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He said he recently met with his federal counterpart, Housing Minister Sean Fraser, to call for greater per-capita funding across the country.

“There’s no guarantee that that money will come to Alberta in any way,” Nixon said of Tuesday’s federal announcements.

“We have a long way to go and we need to continue to encourage our federal government to step up to the plate quickly.”

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Opposition housing critic Janis Irwin joined Nixon in calling on Ottawa to do more to fund housing in Alberta, but accused the province of not doing enough in its own right.

“We’re seeing the UCP pointing fingers. It’s a continued pattern with this government and I’m going to again call on the minister in the house today to work with the other orders of government so we can actually see some tangible progress on housing,” she said at a Wednesday news conference.

“It shouldn’t be a political football. This should be something that this government is taking seriously.”

‘Housing is critical social infrastructure’: Sohi

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi stated that while some progress has been made, housing remains an issue in Edmonton, citing city research that one in eight households are paying more than they can afford in housing costs, or live in crowded or unsafe conditions and can’t afford to move.

“The most effective way for cities to reduce poverty is to increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing. Housing is critical social infrastructure.”

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) expressed concern at the ability of municipalities to provide the services that run parallel to new housing.

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“The reality is that we cannot rapidly scale up new housing construction without also investing in the municipal infrastructure that supports it,” said FCM president Scott Pearce.

“We are concerned that the fall economic statement does not reflect the scale of infrastructure investment required to meet the national housing supply gap.”

Both Pearce — the mayor of the Township of Gore, Que. — and Sohi said those concerns will only grow along with Canada’s population.

“With every home built, there is a corresponding infrastructure need that must be met,” stated Pearce.

— with files from Ryan Tumilty

[email protected]

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