Homeless in Alberta, Canada: gov't help & housing in short supply

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 2 Apr 1999 22:39:41 -0800 (PST)


FWD  Canadian Press, Edmonton, March 31, 1999

     ALBERTA HOMELESS SEE LITTLE GOV'T HELP
     CONSTANT INFLUX OF NEWCOMERS STRAINS HOUSING

In his provincial budget address, Treasurer Stockwell Day heralded
the influx of another 55,000 new Albertans with the words "Welcome
home."

But they ring hollow for municipal officials and housing advocates
who wonder why Day proposed no new money to build affordable housing
for those people and the 37,000 more newcomers expected this year.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council says the homeless and poorly
housed are being let down by all levels of government. Earlier this
month Prime Minister Jean Chretien named a new federal minister of
homelessness but gave her no budget.

"It's an area where people are looking for some action but there is
no leadership," said Brian Bechtel, the council's executive director.
"It's floundering between all levels of government, no one is
stepping up to take it on."

Most of the new Albertans are economic migrants who have snapped up
the available housing stock. This in turn has sent rents soaring - by
hundreds of dollars in some cases in a province that has no rent
controls.

That has driven more and more Albertans - even those with a steady
job - into substandard housing such as motels, shelters or even
tents.

By some estimates, up to 45 per cent of the people in temporary
emergency shelters have jobs.

Gordon Graydon, mayor of Grande Prairie and head of the Alberta Urban
Municipalities Association, said the issue doesn't appear to be a big
priority with the province.

"This was the year of health care and education," said Graydon.

"Maybe next year will be the year of housing. Housing is not really a
municipal issue but these people are in our communities and that's
why we end up dealing with them."

Graydon said developers should get incentives to build for the low-
cost market.

Ottawa stopped building public housing in the early '90s, about the
same time Alberta dumped its stock of subsidized housing as a deficit-
fighting measure.

Premier Ralph Klein's government promised action on social housing in
February's throne speech. Now Municipal Affairs Minister Iris Evans
is scrambling to co-ordinate the housing expenditures of seven
different ministries into a single strategy - without new money.

END FORWARD

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