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December 16, 2017
July 5, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Affordable housing should be everywhere

Written by Jeff Samsonow

image: Homeward Trust

Edmonton is working to end homelessness and keep people from ending up on the street by finding them affordable housing. There’s still plenty of room to go, and only two more years to hit our previous target on ending homelessness (we aren’t going to make it), but a couple of votes in the next week could start to change things in more meaningful ways.

City councillors are going to be asked to set a new goal of 10% affordable housing in every neighbourhood. Yes, even out in some of those lot-splittin’ hatin’ ‘burbs. There’s no real reason this can’t be achieved. Affordable housing often doesn’t require any additional services for people living there (that would be “supportive housing”) and there’s a waiting list of thousands of people looking for a safe and affordable place to live. It would be a huge step forward on lifting Edmontonians out of poverty.

(Speaking of poverty, the latest “living wage” has been calculated for Edmonton, which is down a little bit from last year, but still out of the reach of many working minimum wage jobs. It’s about $60,000 for a household of four.)

Part of the new strategy should include what’s being called a “rights-based approach” where people couldn’t just fight against affordable housing because of spurious claims about property values, “those people” or anything that doesn’t have a basis in fact and property zoning. Baking this into a new policy about affordable housing – and especially for supportive housing – would be a fantastic way to swat down NIMBY attitudes, or at least NIMBY complaints, when development and zoning decisions are being made.

As for supportive housing, this too could be in more places than it currently is. While it should be near enough to important services residents of the buildings need, and it should be near transit connections and in a neighbourhood that has walkable shops and services, it doesn’t have to be crowded into the inner city. There are plenty of places this kind of housing could be built.

Edmonton isn’t currently spreading out its affordable housing. This is how much is non-market affordable compared to all housing in each ward. source: City of Edmonton

There’s also a way forward on a new health and wellness plan for Edmonton’s inner city. It would ask agencies involved in social services and programming to come back in November with an idea of how to build a new wellness centre, and extended services, to improve the health and outcomes for people requiring help in our inner city neighbourhoods. This would include potential safe injection sites. And, hopefully, it includes discussion about how a holistic approach to health and homeless services can extend beyond the inner city, because the need doesn’t just exist in a handful of locations around the downtown.

These kinds of decisions, along with more money from the provincial and federal governments to build affordable housing and supportive housing, will help get more people off the street and out of the river valley, keep other people from ending up homeless and build more compassion into our entire housing discussion.

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Somewhat related to housing… Edmonton’s increasingly empty office towers might be a place to look at for new housing… and Strathcona County is building a new seniors’ centre to keep more residents from having to move, and age in place somewhere they’ve called home. As the story notes, this could reduce the pressure on similar housing and care in Edmonton.


World Indigenous Games

Now that the World Indigenous Games are underway, including the sporting competitions, we’ve got lots of great stories to dig into about the event. This includes the opening ceremonies, what these games mean to some of the athletes coming from around the world, what sports can mean to people coming from Canada’s First Nations and other similar lands and cultures under threat, and a team of Syrian refugees being welcomed to the games this year. Like I said, lots of stuff to read about the games!


Around the city

If you have the courage to take an idea to reality, to build, to make something, Edmonton is your city.

Does that sound about right? Does that sound like the Edmonton you know?

Let’s hope so, since it’s the focus of new City branding and marketing.

I also love this quote from the unveiling at Executive Committee: “Ninety per cent of Canadians live within 200 miles (320 km) of the U.S. border. About half of everyone else lives in Edmonton.” It makes Edmonton sound like the kind of place where your crazy idea might just work.

The branding package is primarily aimed at 18-34 year-olds who are looking for creative, supportive, urban cities to plant their flags and build something. Part of this exercise is to give Edmonton more of a cohesive brand (built from ideas that people already here identify with) and part of this is to attract people who aren’t just in oil and gas to start businesses and build lives here. We need to diversify as our oil-less future looms.

Other notes: there’s no slogan. There’s no logo.

Also, the wordmark really threw a lot of people for a loop. It’s not a logo. It’s also not “the brand”. And it is actually a wordmark, as skeptical as CBC Edmonton might be.

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You may have noticed a lot of churches in the McCauley neighbourhood. That’s Church Street, and it’s going to be better protected from redevelopment as a historically important part of Edmonton’s past.

Edmonton Police want more money for firearms training.

The new commanding officer for western Canada’s military operations made his first official appearance at CFB Edmonton.

And longtime city builder (literally) and philanthropist Sandy MacTaggart is being remembered fondly this week.


Public engagement

The Urban Planning Committee meets today, at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. The meeting will also stream live from the River Valley Room.

There’s an open house tonight about the future Metro Line LRT extension through northwest Edmonton, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

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