Edmonton mayor calls on province for millions to support housing, transit and economic recovery from COVID-19

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is asking the Alberta government for tens of millions of dollars to help the city build and operate permanent supportive housing.

Sohi also wants money for public transit and to help major businesses in the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mayor made a proactive request this week, ahead of Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews releasing the 2022-23 provincial budget on Feb. 24.

A document released to the news media on Thursday said it had asked the province to contribute $49.7 million – about a third of the estimated $149 million it will cost to build 552 permanent assisted living units. support, the rest of the city’s long-term plan to build 900 units.

“We have a crisis in our city,” Sohi told a news conference. “People sleep outside in the winter because they don’t have supportive housing to go to.”

Edmonton is currently building five supportive housing complexes and is working to convert two more hotels into housing for a total of 348 units by the end of the year.

To operate the complexes slated to open in 2022, Sohi is also seeking approximately $9 million per year from the province for 24/7 staff to provide mental health and mental health services. addictions in housing complexes, according to the document.

Susan McGee, CEO of housing agency Homeward Trust, is delighted that Sohi is making the requests.

“We really need to have a long-term plan for the kind of work we do around supportive housing for people who have more complex needs,” McGee said.

“Supporting those 900 units that we plan to put into service is going to be really critical.”

The city and agencies have been working on these permanent supportive housing complexes since 2017, she noted.

“This particular type of housing is unique in its model and has not been sufficiently funded to date.”

Transit deficit, COVID recovery

Sohi’s budget request also includes long-term funding and strategies for infrastructure and transit.

The document refers to a section of the city’s old charter agreement between the province, Calgary and Edmonton, which Jason Kenney’s UCP government canceled in 2019.

Restoring that capital funding — about $400 million a year — would allow Alberta’s two largest cities “to realize their future targeted transit systems,” the document says.

The City of Edmonton estimates it will need $81 million over the next two years to make up for lost transit revenue, as bus and LRT ridership has dropped about 50% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sohi said if the province and Ottawa don’t pass, the transit system — and riders — will suffer.

“We will have to reduce our service and this will have a real impact on the ability of Edmontonians to access services, programs and jobs, because public transit is essential. This is my concern.

The mayor is also asking for $5 million to help struggling downtown businesses recover from the pandemic.

Sohi touted his efforts to restore the relationship with the provincial government. Since his election as mayor in October, he has met with Kenney and his ministers and had positive and fruitful discussions, he said.

“I’m optimistic that our provincial government will step up for Edmonton,” Sohi said.

He added that the needs for housing, economic recovery and public transit are immediate and are “the bare minimum that we expect from our provincial government.”

@natashariebe

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