Waiting lists for affordable housing units are growing as the city continues to deal with a ‘perfect storm,’ says the head of Homeland Housing.
Raymond Cormie, the executive officer of the non-profit organization, painted a bleak picture to city council on May 6 where he outlined the growing gap in St. Albert’s affordable housing.
“We have almost a perfect storm that’s emerging in respect to affordable housing,” he said. “If you take a look at what’s happening for individuals waiting for housing within St. Albert, we find that within our seniors' apartment we have about 60 people on the waitlist and that waiting period is three to five years. Within the seniors' lodge program, we have 40 people on our waitlist and that can be a four-to six-year period. Ultimately, we don’t have a lot of turnover but our waitlists are growing and growing.”
Homeland Housing, which covers a region the size of Prince Edward Island, provides the city with 231 units including 53 subsidized seniors apartments, 66 senior lodge units and 90 senior affordable housing units.
Cormie said their mission is to enrich the lives of residents and the community with diverse quality housing and innovative services. He explained the number one priority for the organization is to provide more affordable housing for low-and moderate-income households.
The city has already taken steps to address the gaps in affordable housing by highlighting four key areas, including market affordable housing and rental and non-market affordable housing and community housing.
Cormie argued the city could consider a fifth gap that needed to be addressed in the housing strategy, which is seniors housing. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 units have been built for wealthier seniors, while over the same timeframe, roughly 109 units were created for low-and moderate-income seniors, he said.
Cormie added there was a definitive need for roughly 500 affordable housing units per year within the city. He mentioned the organization receives no grants from the city, although St. Albert does provide some assistance through requisition.
Coun. Natalie Joly, the city council representative for Homeland Housing, explained Monday the city does a lot to try to tackle the issue of affordable housing, including through various committees and task forces like the Mayor’s Task Force to End Homelessness.
The city also received $5.4 million between 2007 to 2010 for affordable housing programs and services and has contributed to the St. Albert Housing Society.
She said there’s a lot at stake when it comes to affordable housing.
“It's safety for families, being able to connect with your community," she added. "It's being able to stay in your community. Even thinking about domestic violence, one of the barriers to leaving situations of domestic violence is access to affordable housing.”