Category Archives: Research highlights

Edmonton considering a 16% Affordable Housing Target in every neighbourhood

On Monday afternoon, August 13, 2018, city staff will be presenting an affordable housing framework to City Council Executive.  The need for such a framework is driven by the reality of a steep rise in housing cost in many Canadian cities since the turn of the millenium, and numbers from Statistics Canada that tell us almost 50,000 renter households In Edmonton face difficulty finding housing they can afford.

City staff are proposing a city-wide affordable housing framework (laid out in City Policy C601) to guide the planning and development of City-funded affordable housing projects. There are two important changes that this policy recommends:

  1. That to meet the current needs of Edmontonians, the City encourages affordable housing city-wide, and aspires to 16% affordable housing in all neighbourhoods and wards.
  2. That all new affordable housing projects are evaluated against the same five criteria to ensure consistency and transparency.

Recognizing that the geographic location of a development is only one of multiple factors to consider, the framework lays out five criteria to evaluate affordable housing project proposals

  • The degree of affordability (level of rent payments charged in the project)
  • Whether the proposed development has funding from other orders of government
  • The proximity of the development to amenities and supports
  • The overall project design
  • The broader geographic context of the development’s location

This framework aims to provide a consistent way to assess affordable housing funding proposals from community organizations and the private sector. This means that every affordable housing proposal will be evaluated using the same five criteria, and the existing neighbourhood context and services will be taken into consideration when the City looks at funding affordable housing.

Is 16% too much? 

CRIHI has been grappling with the larger question for some time. and has formulated our answer as follows:

A 16% guideline for distribution of affordable housing across Edmonton is not high, and in itself poses no threat to neighbourhood vitality.

Supporting observations:

  1. The research shows little correlation between rates of non-market housing and neighbourhood distress here in Edmonton.
  2. The 16% suggested target is not high when one considers the practice of other jurisdictions with social safety nets comparable to Canada.  For example: the floating city of Ijburg in the Netherlands is intentionally designed with 30% Social housing, 30% home ownership, and 40% market rental on each block.  The Netherlands has been intentionally designing communities with a steady integration of non-market and mixed-income housing developments since the second world war.

To see our answer in the context of the larger question, please see our Housing FAQ:

How much is too much? and supporting research.


Interested to come see and hear the report on August 13?
Come join us!

CRIHI will be there to hear and respond to this report, and is inviting faith community folks to come out in a show of support for meaningful housing solutions.  We anticipate a great deal of interest from other groups as well, so there is likely to be a fairly strong lineup of people to speak to this report.  CRIHI’s voice will be one of them.

This meeting is designated time specific to begin at 1:30 on Monday, August 13 at City Hall, in the River Valley Room.

To access the formal policy proposal, please go to the following link:
http://sirepub.edmonton.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=1964&doctype=AGENDA
Framework and supporting documents are available with the June 18 agenda, under item 6.16

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How the Dutch do Affordable Housing

“The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and has a very expensive housing market.  And yet, it also provides one of the best examples in Europe of quality, well-integrated affordable housing. What can Canada learn from their example?”

The Dutch have been at this a long time.  Initial efforts to provide more affordable housing were actually started by private merchants and industrialists in the 1800s who wanted better housing for their workers.  In the early 1900s the government began to be involved, and supported the development of housing associations.  Following WWII, these Housing Associations took on a major role in helping rebuild the country’s housing stock, with intentional focus on making affordable housing accessible to low-income populations all across the country.  In the 1990s, a new deal was made with housing associations, pulling out all government subsidies in exchange for significant freedom in their continued development of housing with at least a portion of this being affordable/social housing.

In recent years, changing regulations, new government tax levies coupled with rising pressures from land scarcity and an influx of new migrants have made this work much harder.  But so much has been done right over the years that the Netherlands is handling these pressures better than many of their counterparts in the EU.


Here’s an overview of some of the history:

dutch housing history
Source:  housing-futures.org


In the Netherlands today, Housing Associations provide for around 60% of the country’s population.  Social housing accounts for 37 per cent of the total stock across the country, and as much as 75 per cent of the total rented stock.  There are well over 300 housing associations at work across the country, with at least one in every municipality.  They are required to function within governmental frameworks, but operate with some freedom, catering to market demand while carrying a social duty to provide for low-income populations.  Many of these housing associations also invest in the life and health of the local community, supporting the growth of local businesses, local schools, and local services like Libraries and community gathering spaces.

The Dutch choose Integration over Segregation
Of particular significance has been the Dutch emphasis on Integration.  Housing associations have long created sustainable mixed-income developments with breakdowns such as:  20% low income; 60% middle income; 20% high income.   In these developments, high income housing helps pay for the low income housing to make it a sustainable model for market development.  As of 1994, housing associations have been able to continue to build on this model entirely without government funding.

Now there is no magic to this model.  Tensions around race, class, faith or cultural background do not simply evaporate when people live in proximity.  These mixed income blocks in the Netherlands experience tensions between homeowners and social renters. But when there is some effort on all sides to bridge gaps, it often leads to a much better understanding of existing issues. In some settings, a community manager was employed to assist with this connection and support efforts at bridge building.

Another example of the Dutch emphasis on integration are the housing units planned and built in the floating city of IJburg (pictured below).  Home to around 20,000 people already, with around 45,000 anticipated upon completion, Housing breakdowns in Ijburg are divided into three categories: 30% of affordable rental units, 30% of private properties, and 40% of market-rate rental units. Each block in IJburg includes these three categories, mixing homeowners, social, and market-rate renters. All residents share playgrounds, courtyards, public squares, shopping centres and canals.

Dutch housing ijburg


Does integration make a difference? 
In other EU countries, like France and Sweden, market forces have largely determined where high-income and low-income housing is located.  That has led to some segregation and even the ghettoization of different populations.  That dynamic has flavoured how well these countries are able to respond to and integrate the influx of migrants and refugees.  New migrants are forced to find homes in less desirable areas of the city, where they often experience less opportunity for employment, negative stigmas, higher stress, longer commutes to work, and less access to social supports.  These challenges serve as significant barriers to healthy integration, and sometimes result in high levels of tension and conflict.  The city of London, in the United Kingdom currently struggles to bring in workers to do low-paying jobs, as local housing is so expensive and low-income workers have to commute as much as two hours.

By way of contrast, In the Netherlands migrants and other low-income populations have much greater choices available for where they can live.  They also benefit from much easier access to support services, and are naturally integrated into the fabric of the community.   Better opportunity for work and for relationship with more established Dutch neighbours makes a difference on how they think about and find their place in their new home.  As has been noted, there is no magic to this approach, and intentional efforts at community-building are necessary to make it work, but the Dutch example shows it can work well.

How do the Dutch rank in the EU on social housing?
“The data show the highest rates of satisfaction in Austria and Finland, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden – countries where the social housing sector (or actually municipal rental housing in the case of Sweden) is relatively large and typically houses a wide and diversified population group. Malta also shows a rate of satisfaction, despite having a smaller social housing sector.
Also interesting, users of social housing services tend to give higher quality ratings than non-users – showing that there is still some degree of prejudice and misconceptions about this sector in the wider public.”  (Source: http://www.housingeurope.eu/resource-1048/quality-of-life-in-the-eu)

Article by Mike Van Boom, Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative 


Further sources:
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/greathomesanddestinations/living-above-and-below-the-waters-surface-in-amsterdam.html

https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/sustainablecitiescollective/challenges-dutch-inclusive-neighborhood/202861/

https://www.wohnforum.arch.ethz.ch/sites/default/files/tagungen/tagungsbericht_regout.pdf

Efforts to Aid Heavy users of Service Paying Off!

The following research highlights are from the 2017 report entitled: HEAVY USERS OF SERVICE SOCIAL RETURN ON INVESTMENT (SROI) ANALYSIS


The Heavy Users of Services (HUoS) project was launched in 2013 as a partnership consisting of 16 groups including health and social service providers, first responders, justice services, Indigenous-focused organizations, and government representatives. The initiative was developed as a response to community members who are highly vulnerable, cycle through the systems, and repeatedly “fall through the cracks”. By establishing an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and consent forms, agencies were able to share information across sectors, facilitating more comprehensive and holistic service delivery.

Since its implementation in late 2013, HUoS has supported a total of 27 individuals that are characterized as being:
▪ Edmonton’s most frequent users of health, justice, and social services
▪ often involved in social disorder incidents as both victims and offenders
▪ extremely vulnerable human beings with complex needs
▪ disproportionately Indigenous and experiencing the intergenerational impact of residential schools, colonization and loss of traditional family support networks
▪ often living with the long-term and irreversible impact of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
▪ mired by a range of mental and physical health issues, addictions, and homelessness
▪ people who have experienced deeply traumatic life events
▪ people for whom systemic barriers and gaps prevent or reduce access to supports, treatment, and programming.

The project worked to coordinate efforts from numerous angles, including better communication, provision of housing and supports, and committed case management resources.


The project team was able to track some measurable success as can be seen in the graphic below:

The Project team was also able to quantify the return on investment, with demonstrated cost savings to the system, along with measurable improvements in the lives of clients.

IN SUMMARY:  This report reinforces previous findings that were prevalent in the launch of the ten year plan.  It highlights the quantifiable data that says not only are tools such as coordinated support services and provision of housing cheaper than services that just keeping someone alive on the street, they also work to measurably improve a person’s quality of life!


Access the full report at:  HUoS report 2017; Civitas Consulting

PSH Feature: Hope Terrace

Hope Terrace is Supportive Living for people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

FASD is a brain injury that can occur when an unborn baby is exposed to alcohol.  It’s a lifelong disorder with effects that include physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities. These can vary from mild to severe.
(Source: canada.ca; FASD)

According to Ashley Baxter, Manager of Bissell Centre’s FASD programs at Hope Terrace, a prominent feature for those with a stronger disorder is a lack of emotional regulation.  She says we all experience a storm of emotions from time to time; triggered by fear, anger, anxiety, pain or trauma.  Ordinarily, Baxter says, the emotions shoot up from the hippocampus to our reasoning centre, which works like a filter to control our response.  Depending on the person and the severity of their disorder, that filter might not work.  That can result in very strong reactions; a stream of rage and angry words and occasionally a physical acting out will sometimes erupt damaging relationships.  This is of course a source of tension and anxiety for those families and friends struggling to care for a loved one.

Critical to this work of care is committed supporting relationships; especially those strong enough to weather the frequent storms of emotions.  And of course, a stable home situation and access to medications and professional aids go a long way to help a person with FASD find fulfillment and a reasonably stable and meaningful life.

If a person with FASD loses this support and stability their challenge is exponentially harder.  Some end up living on the street and there accumulate a host of other challenges; including trauma, physical health and injury, and addictions to drugs and alcohol as they seek escape from the ongoing pain and struggle.  Helping someone find their way back from this place of anger and despair takes much more than a meal at a soup kitchen.  It requires a stable home, supports, and counseling and a network of committed supporting relationships.  That’s where a place like Hope Terrace comes in.


First opening in January of 2016, Hope Terrace provides permanent supportive housing to twenty three adult (18+) residents with a string of complex challenges, including stronger forms of FASD.  Residents are people with a history of housing instability (homelessness), who may also carry behind them difficult family histories, trauma, and additional mental health challenges (such as oppositional defiance disorder).  Some residents may also struggle with self-harm.

The staff at Hope Terrace are there twenty four-seven to provide stability, support, and care to these residents, according to a model that emphasizes caring relationship.   They are trained to respond to the complex series of needs and challenges, and strive to provide a stable home and community where people can heal and improve their situation.

hope terrace insight-homeless
Photo above by David Bloom


Hope Terrace is a harm reduction facility so residents are allowed to consume alcohol or use drugs in the safety of their home without fear of expulsion.  Baxter notes that this is a privilege most of us enjoy in our own homes and that it provides dignity to people; as opposed to forcing them out onto the street.   “Those seeking refuge in drugs and alcohol do so to try to cope and silence their brain.”  At Hope Terrace, people can be active users and know that those around them understand. If family (especially children) are coming to visit, the staff makes it their regular practice to ensure the resident is sober so that it will be a good visit.

Creating community in the facility is a priority.  A foundational piece of that puzzle is establishing trust, consistency, and honesty as a norm.  Predictable routines and policies ensure that people know that their private details will not be shared, and their space will be honoured.  And they have movie nights, jam sessions, programs, trips to the recreational centre, and other local community events.

Guests are welcomed into the facility as long as they are respectful and follow the rules.  If staff sense that a resident is being taken advantage of (such as friends who tend to come around on payday), they will have a conversation with that resident.  Ultimately, they seek to support positive relationships as supportive community is a need everyone has.


Is Hope Terrace a healthy example of community care?
A critical marker of success is when residents feel connected and safe to talk to the staff, as trust and relationship are critical ingredients to a person’s journey.

As far as examples, Ashley notes that everyone’s stories and situations are very different, so success will look very different for each person.  One person’s success may be finishing high school and looking for a job.  Another’s may be retaining their housing, and slowly becoming healthier.  Certainly, there have been some great indicators.  One person who has never had stable housing has been there for a year and a half; coming home every night!  And they have seen this kind of success fairly broadly, with over fifty percent of their residents coming on board over the last two years settling in for the long term.


Why do people fall away from the program?  Ashley highlights two main reasons:
1. When someone gets physically violent with staff or other residents.  For everyone’s safety, they have to be removed.
2. Difficult roommate situations.  As Hope Terrace is a repurposed apartment complex, nine of the units are two bedroom; requiring two residents to share space.  As emotional deregulation is an issue for many of the residents, living in such close quarters with another does not often go well, so a person will get fed up and walk away from their housing; often back onto the street.


How about the relationship with the local community? 
“For the first year, the local neighbourhood didn’t even know we were there.”   As it was a repurposed apartment and formerly in use by the Terra Centre as home for teen parents and their families, there was no discussion with local neighbours ahead of time, and  after two years, there have not been any concerns raised locally.  There are not too many residential dwellings close by, but there are a few, and some local businesses.   But to date, they have never had a neighbour complain to the police.  Sometimes their residents have called the police, but never local neighbours.  They have only had one concerned neighbour stop in and that was to ask one of the residents to turn down the music in their room.

But there have been some concerns in the local neighbourhood.  As the area is sort of a grey zone with less intensive policing, the Red Alert gang has presence in some of the local houses.  There was a flop house close by that was causing some concern for Hope Terrace residents, but with frequent complaints to the police and SCAN, Hope Terrace staff were able to get it resolved.

Ashley says it is important for residents to feel comfortable out in the community, and not feel “othered.”  Going for a swim at the rec. centre, or for a fire and marshmallows in the park helps people feel comfortable and at home in their community.

Based on an interview with Ashley Baxter, manager of FASD programs at Hope Terrace


To learn more about FASD and how communities can respond well to people with FASD symptoms, please explore the following link for a series of educational sessions: http://fasd.alberta.ca/search.aspx

See the following for another look into the work done by Hope Terrace in the Edmonton Journal: http://edmontonjournal.com/news/insight/hope-terrace-where-success-is-sweet-but-failure-can-break-your-heart

Unpacking the National Housing Strategy; Money and Metrics

Targets and Metrics

  • 530,000 families removed from housing need
  • 300,000 existing housing units repaired and renewed
  • 385,000 households protected from losing an affordable home
  • 100,000 new housing units (60,000 from Co-Investment Fund)
  • 7,000 shelter spaces created or repaired
  • 50,000 households benefit from an expansion of community housing eligibility
  • 300,000 households to receive direct housing subsidy
  • 50% reduction in use of homeless shelters
  • 25% reduction, energy consumption and GHG emissions
  • 20% of new units to meet accessibility standards

Observations:  These targets show a willingness to tackle the challenges of housing affordability and supports from several angles: helping prevent homelessness, renewing existing housing helps, creating new spaces, and moving intentionally away from emergency accommodation (ie. shelters) to stronger and more effective solutions (ie. supportive housing).  The intent seems to be in harmony with efforts currently underway by the City of Edmonton, which seems to be a healthy and well-considered approach.

NHS Targets


Investment Highlights
The NHS describes a total budget of $37 billion dollars in federal funding to support housing and homelessness programs. The funding commitments described in the strategy include:

  • $15.9-billion for a new National Housing Co-Investment Fund
    • $4.7-billion in financial contributions & $11.2-billion in low interest loans
    • Must be supplemented (cost-shared) by Provinces/Territories
  • $8.6-billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative in partnership with provinces and territories, and $500 million through a new Federal Community Housing Initiative
  • $4-billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit:
    • To be launched in 2020
    • Up to $2,500 per family per year
    • Assumes $2-billion Federal funds matched by Provincial and Territorial means matching or co-funding
  • $2.2-billion to reduce homelessness:
    • Appears to be a renewal of the existing Homeless Partnership Strategy (HPS) program that is in the midst of a major review that will launch in 2019
  • $300-million in additional federal funding to address housing needs in Canada’s North
  • $241-million for research, data and demonstrations
  • $200-million in Federal lands transferred to housing providers.

Observations:  Some of these dollars will be used to leverage supplementary investments by provinces/territories; so much will depend on the success of these negotiations.  It is wonderful that the federal government is coming to the table with both land and investment dollars in hand.  Now we will look for productive and fruitful conversations at those tables.


NHS vision

To explore the strategy directly, please visit: https://www.placetocallhome.ca/index.cfm

CRIHI thanks staff at the City of Edmonton, Cody Spencer and Daryl Kreuzer for their compiling of numbers and data used in this presentation.

PSH Feature: Westwood Manor

Innovative Efforts Helping People Heal

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is a frontline concern in our city; with close to one thousand new units desperately needed.  Political backing and funding are lining up at all three levels of government to fill this critical gap in our response to prevent and end homelessness.  These facilities are meaningful and effective solutions; provide safe and supportive community for people carrying some of the most difficult and complex burdens; barriers that continually jeopardize their health and their ability to retain work and housing.  For these folks, a PSH facility is a space to find healing, hope and community.

But as efforts ramp up to build these facilities, questions abound: What might this look like?  How will it fit into the local neighbourhood?  What will be the impact be on the local community?


Today’s PSH story feature is Westwood Manor; located in the Westwood community, east of the old municipal airport.  A few years ago, the Mustard Seed purchased and renovated a small ageing apartment building in the Westwood Community.  It was fairly run down, and an eyesore in this mature neighbourhood.   Today, this newly renovated facility is home and supportive community for twenty people with a range of complex needs, including drug and alcohol addictions, trauma and mental health barriers like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and chronic depression.

Westwood Manor is rated as a fairly high acuity PSH.  That means they have some higher needs folks living there.  As with all PSH, supports are located on-site; including 24-hour staffing.  Westwood Manor is also a harm-reduction facility, which means that a person’s housing is not dependent on maintaining their sobriety or abstinence.  Tenants have access to sterilized needles and other supplies that will allow them to use safely.

Mustard Seed owns the building, but staffing ratios and operating dollars come from Homeward Trust, with people referred through the Coordinated Access System; that links all such efforts across Edmonton.

Westwood kitchen
A Kitchen Space in one of the apartments

A priority in this facility is the creation of intentional community for their residents; not only within the facility but in the local neighbourhood as well.  The lack of community and healthy relationship has long been recognized as a root cause of both addiction and mental health challenges.  Landon Hildebrand, the facility manager notes that they have seen exciting change already, with significant health improvements.  He says, “Joy, community, attachment…when we provide these things, the addictions have less appeal.””

He notes that mental health concerns are present in every community, but are more raw and hyper-realized in the most vulnerable.  The ability to hide it is just not there.

Their efforts at providing community include building a relationship with local neighbours.  Westwood staff approached the Westwood Community League to learn about getting more involved, and they were welcomed with open arms.  The Community League provided them with a family membership to cover all their residents, and now they are able to participate as volunteers and as full members in community league gatherings.

20120821_gc_529

Westwood Manor staff also supported the creation of a resident’s committee (much like a condo board) that had authority to consider and respond to concerns.  Staff agreed to take all new policy or rule changes to this committee for their consideration.  This new way of doing things changed how residents related to staff and how they thought about their home.  It prompted a sense of ownership and responsibility in the facility; prompting greater care for the space, the grounds, and each other.  They want their home to be a warm, safe, and healthy environment.  Residents in this kind of leadership role have even helped resolve interpersonal conflicts.  It’s been a win, win, win for everyone!   Landon credits the success of this kind of approach as a direct counter to the myth that people in PSH can’t make good decisions.  “The more authority and leadership we give to our folks, the better they do.”

Westwood’s community-building efforts are a little tricky on some fronts, particularly as they have very little in the way of gathering space to hang out together.  When a suite is empty, the staff will often transform it into a place to hang out, and the office is one place people stop in to chat constantly.  They could also use a secure space where they can have those private and secure conversations, coaching, training, and supports.

But things get much easier in the summer, when they can host outdoor BBQs and feasts, and invite the neighbours.  They also plan to start a community garden this coming year that they hope will promote natural connection between residents and local neighbours.

Is their approach successful?  Landon shares the story of one gentleman whose almost daily ritual was being out panhandling for long hours, stuck in alcohol and substances.  He would get dropped off by EPS almost daily and carried back to his unit.  Now he is there at 3:00 everyday to hang out with the staff during shift change; so he can chat with both those going out and those coming in.  He’s also working to start a local snow shovelling business, and because he is a community league member is able to share some of his posters on the local bulletin board and in the community hall.

Certainly not everyone succeeds, and evictions happen occasionally.  Concerns around safety and difficult behaviors are usually the reason someone has to be removed.  Unfortunately, there are not many places for people to go if they are evicted.  The shortage of PSH in Edmonton means that few facilities are available and equipped to manage and care for people with more difficult behaviors.


Westwood Manor’s story illustrates the value and effectiveness of Permanent Supportive Housing as a meaningful and effective solution.  She provides a place of healing, home, safety and stability for some of our most vulnerable people.  And the efforts by her residents and staff are a lesson in the powerful need we all have for a community where we participate and can take responsibility in shaping.

Based on an Interview with Landon Hildebrand, A Registered Psychologist, Serving as Director of Housing and Clinic development.

Housing as a Human Right?

For the first time on November 22, 2017 the Government of Canada formally began speaking about housing as a human right.  While this has been recognized by the international community for some time, this marked an important recognition of the obligation we have as a country to ensure everyone has a safe and decent place to call home.

To unpack some of the implications and meaning of this recognition, I sat down with Jim Gurnett, a longtime housing advocate and promoter of housing as a human right.  Here’s some of what he shared with me:

“Human rights are always fuzzy and hard to pin down.  All human rights today are based on UN declarations.  The problem is that they don’t compel any nations to do something.  They simply state an obligation.”

“With housing it gets more complicated.  The rights language gives us a way of thinking about housing, but not a black and white pathway to answers about what governments or communities can do.  Even if Canada signs on to this obligation, what are the measurables of whether that right is being satisfied or not?  The amount of money you have as a state can make it impossible to do much.”

“It also doesn’t directly feed into legal obligation.  For example, Ontario courts have noted of some other rights, that even if something is a right, it’s not something we can enforce.  A legal obligation can materialize if there becomes Canadian legislation to enforce housing as a right.  Our Prime Minister hinted at that possibility in his November 22 announcement, but it was very vague.  Moving forward, the Government will be considering what that might mean.  Currently there is no legisltation in action that you could bring to the human rights commission to say ‘my right to housing has been violated.'”

“But here’s what I like about it.  It makes us uncomfortable with the fact that some people don’t have this basic need met, and gets us exploring how we can work to resolve that.  It gets us talking about the fact that we are not doing a good job.  If a nation has homelessness, it is not doing enough.  It gets us talking together about why some people don’t have the help they need.”

As I concluded this conversation with Jim, I came to the understanding that human rights language serves to remind us of our obligations as citizens of earth; obligations that the world has said together are critical and necessary.  Obligation to protect freedom of speech and religion, peaceful assembly and association, to combat slavery, and to provide each other with basic needs like food, water and yes, adequate housing (Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Interview by Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador

Life on Minimum Wage; A Fact Sheet

The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily.


We know many low income households struggle to afford housing.  What are some of the numbers? 

In Alberta:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 308,485
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 15.1%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 36.0%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.4% (Statistics Canada, 2017)City of Edmonton:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of income on shelter costs: 86,665
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 16.5%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 38.1%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.6% (Statistics Canada, 2017)

What do housing affordability issues look like for those making minimum wage in Edmonton?

This section utilizes the calculation guide created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to complement the 2017 living wage calculation for Metro Vancouver. The calculation guide includes a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the living wage amount after local family expenses, deductions, tax credits, and government transfers have been applied. We replaced the living wage with the current minimum wage of $13.60/hour to recalculate yearly budgets of low wage workers and to showcase affordable housing challenges in the City of Edmonton and the choices that many Edmontonians are forced to make because of their low wages and high housing costs (Ivonova and Reano, 2017).

Single Person making $13.60/hour

For a single person living in a $1,000/month one bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
  • They will have no contingency or emergency fund
  • They will take $150/year off the food budget and may need to go to the food bank
  • They cannot afford cable television, but can have internet and one cellphone
  • They cannot afford health insurance through Alberta Blue Cross
  • They cannot afford to go to night school
  • They must take $500/year off their furniture and supplies budget
  • Even with these cuts, this individual saves only $4 monthly and $50 yearly
  • The single person is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
  • This individual must spend 50% of their income on rent

Single parent with one child making $13.60/hour

For a single parent family with one child living in a $1,106 two bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
  • A single parent will receive the maximum amounts for the Alberta Child Benefit, the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, and the Canada Child Benefit
  • Even with these extra benefits, a single parent making minimum wage cannot afford to go to night school
  • They must take $150/year off their contingency or emergency fund
  • They must cut their furniture and supplies budget by half
  • They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
  • They must take $100/year off their food budget and may need to go to the food bank
  • They cannot afford television but can have internet with one cellphone
  • This family can save $1 monthly and $7 yearly
  • A family of two is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
  • A single parent family must spend 33.9% of its income on rent

Two parent, two child family, making $13.60/hour

For a two parent family with two children living in a $1,377 three bedroom in the City of Edmonton making $49,504 a year:
  • This family receives a significant amount in child and family benefits
  • This family must take $300/year off its furniture and other supplies budget
  • They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
  • This family cannot afford to have one parent go to night school
  • They must cut their contingency or emergency fund by half
  • This family can save $2 monthly and $28 yearly
  • This family must spend 24.7% of its income on rent

Conclusion

The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily. A single person making minimum wage must choose between receiving an education or having enough food to eat. While a single parent receives the maximum amounts for a variety of federal and provincial child benefits, they are still unable to go to night school and are forced to take $100/year off their food budget, possibly having to use the food bank. A two-parent family with two children also cannot afford to send one parent to night school, and are forced to choose between buying clothing and furniture or paying the rent.
ESPC logo
By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator,
Edmonton Social Planning Council


Sources:
Ivanova, I., & Reano, P. (2017). Working for a Living Wage 2017. Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver. Calculation Guide. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2017). About Affordable Housing in Canada. Retrieved from https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/afhoce/afhoce_021.cfm

Homeless Hub. (2014). What is National Housing Day? Where did it originate? What happens on that day? Retrieved from http://homelesshub.ca/resource/what-national-housing-day-where-did-it-originate-what-happens-day

Statistics Canada. (2017). Canada [Country] and Canada [Country] (table). Census Profile. 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa. Released October 25, 2017. http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=PR&Code1=01&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchText=Canada&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=Housing&TABID=1

The Plan to End Homelessness: Unpacking the Third goal of the new update

Working together with a diverse group of people tends to be tricky under the best of circumstances.  After all, we each come with our different expectations, ways of being, backstories, ideas and passions.  But imagine how tricky it can be working across diverse organizations!  Even if we’re all working in the same general direction, a lack of good communication and coordination of efforts can sink the work; or at very least cause significant frustration and a waste of precious time and resources.


A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness:
Update Feature:  Part 3 of 3

Stronger collaboration between organizations responding to homelessness and extreme poverty has been a front-line emphasis for some time now, and an amazing amount of ground has been covered.  The chart below illustrates the gradual shift in movement the last years have seen toward better communication and coordination.

history of coordinated access

Jarrod Bayne, the Chief Strategy officer from Homeward Trust Edmonton (HTE) makes the following observations about how this work has progressed:

  • Before the Ten-year Plan, waitlists to get into housing were the norm.  With the implementation of the Plan and of Housing First, prioritization based on need (and standardized assessment tools) became the approach for HF programs.
  • Housing First agencies adopted a “No Wrong Door” approach, whereby a person presenting at any agency could expect to be screened and prioritized for service – they didn’t have to be referred elsewhere and repeat their story in other words.
  • No Wrong Door as an approach had a lot of strengths and consistency, but weaknesses as well.  Agencies were prioritizing largely individually, and it was more challenging to optimize as a sector.  A person could also have a service relationship with multiple agencies, complicating matters.
  • Homeward Trust established some central capacity for “Coordinated Access” to services funded under the Plan.  Given that Homeward Trust administered the shared database and provided other capacity for the sector as a whole (such as landlord relations, rental assistance, and training), it made most sense to locate this function within HTE.
  • Several opportunities locally served as “proof of concept” for Coordinated Access as a shared practice.  One example is our efforts through Housing First to address crisis levels of families in hotels.
  • Through our participation in the 20,000 Homes Campaign, the homeless-serving sector took the opportunity not only to increase our reach in identifying people experiencing homelessness, but also to combine and consolidate prioritization lists into a single shared list.
  • Building on international leading practice, HTE and our partners in Edmonton are now active participants in the “Built for Zero” initiative. This initiative emphasizes a real-time, shared “By Name List” as the cornerstone of community-wide efforts to end homelessness. This approach not only builds on the Coordinated Access capacity we have established locally, but also broadens the potential to directly involve multiple partners and providers in “working the list”.  A shared community-wide list in real time gives us tremendous ability to react to trends, to learn more about how people move in and out of homelessness, and to show the impact of our collective efforts.

How does the new Plan update talk about the next stage of the journey?  Here’s the basics:


Unpacking the Third Goal:
Develop an Integrated Services Response

update goal three
Engaging people with lived experience.  

If you want to do a good job on anything, you want to be able to see what you’re doing from many angles.  Frontline staff, along with participants in a program provide critical input to ensure providers are getting it right; with quality shelter, and in delivering housing and support services.  The plan says “the need for specific engagement with key subpopulations, including youth and indigenous people will continue to be assessed and expanded to other groups where needed.”

Continued partnership on access and information-sharing.
Building on the work done already, specific goals are set to bridge the significant gaps that remain.  The ‘no wrong door’ policy has helped to reduce the run-around and frustration people experience when trying to find help and support with housing.  But there is still work to do on making sure people are able to be assessed and referred to the most appropriate kinds of help, and of course trying to ensure the right help will be available to meet the needs.

The System Planner Organization
With so many organizations and partners engaged together in the work across Edmonton, it can be difficult to gauge the health and needs of the larger picture.  Homeward Trust Edmonton is currently positioned and resourced to be the system planner.  Much of the work they do is targeted to streamlining the communication and information gathered from the many partner organizations in order to understand and research the larger trends.  This helps inform where there are shortfalls and gaps in the work being done, and provides critical evidence to inform decisions as to where scarce resources are best spent.

update system planner

The Accountability Framework
How will we ensure the work stays on track?  Who will help resolve issues, sort out conflicts, and discuss the tough questions?  An accountability framework will be developed by 2018 that will “identify resource and funding coordination processes, roles and accountabilities to support plan strategies.”  This framework will (most likely) involve setting a table, gathering appropriate partners, and together formulating tools and structures so the group is able to understand and respond effectively to issues and challenges that emerge.

Areas of possible engagement for faith communities:
1. Engage with Local Service Providers in your community.  Here’s a list of different resources and the different kinds of basic needs they work to respond to:
http://mapsab.ca/downloads/SocialAtlas/Resource/2017/NoData/Basic%20NeedsList_0217.pdf
2. Understand the best points of contact.  Visit our website for emergency contact numbers and service providers:  https://wp.me/P20ewB-o6
3. If you know someone in search of a place, call the Coordinated Access Hotline:  780.496.1300

The Plan to End Homelessness: Unpacking the Second Goal of the New Update

They called it the ‘Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.’  At the beginning, leaders in the city of Edmonton knew this was an unachievable goal, but they stuck with the title.  Why?  Because they believed it was better to aim for success than to begin by measuring our failure.

Eight years in, much good work has been accomplished, and ‘no, we are not on target to succeed in ten years.‘  The work has always been long-term, but to do it well, it is good for us to continue to aim for success; to continually evaluate what we are doing and why; making our efforts better, stronger and more effective.  It is also critical to stay focused on the larger picture, which must include prevention.

The report, A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention describes it well with the following infographic:
thistothis
Access the report at the following link: http:// www.homelesshub.ca/anewdirection

Last month we reflected on the first goal to End Chronic Homelessness; most of the solutions there focused on providing Accommodation and Supports.  In October and November, we examine the second and third goals.  The second goal targets the work of prevention.

Unpacking the Second Goal: Prevent Future Homelessness

The new update sets the following targets:

In 2019, people will be diverted from entering the homeless-serving system with an immediate link to community-based prevention supports within five days wherever possible and appropriate
By 2018, corrections, health, and child intervention will report on the number of people discharged into homelessness from public systems on a biennial basis at minimum.  Based on figures reported, annual targets will be introduced to achieve zero discharge into homelessness by 2023.

Update second goal
Enhancing homelessness prevention and diversion.
A key to prevention is catching people before they either lose their housing, or slide into homelessness for any length of time.  The plan update aims to fill that need by strengthening the ability of Coordinated Access to stabilize people’s housing situations, prevent evictions, and enhance crisis supports so people don’t end up at shelters or in Emergency rooms.

They aim to provide supported referrals that will make flexible housing funds available to agencies that are already providing support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  the report says, “a total of 750 individuals will receive supports from these two programs annually when fully implemented.”

Additional proposed measures to prevent homelessness include working with the Government of Alberta, City of Edmonton, and EndPoverty Edmonton to encourage increases to affordable housing stock and portable rent supplements.

Stronger supports and resources for Indigenous communities.
The report highlights: “In 2015, 54% of clients in Housing First programs were Indigenous. Indigenous-led and delivered services that provide access to Elders, and healing and wellness practitioners as part of supports, will continue to be a priority across the homeless-serving system. Morning Fire Protector has a cultural support worker to connect residents with cultural and ceremonial teachings, as well as engaging with Elders. Bent Arrow’s Indigenous Housing First team ensures that cultural supports are available to the participants they serve, and they coordinate and provide access to supports for other teams in the community.”

These are very needed resources in the indigenous communities, and certainly these resources are critical to the community at large as well, so the plan update calls for increased access to increased support resources in mental health, addiction, trauma and wellness services.

Public Education and Awareness
The Plan update recognizes the need for a social marketing campaign, as a way for people and communities to understand the impacts of poverty and unstable housing on people and families, so that they are better prepared to participate in solutions even on a local level.

The report states: “Edmontonians consider ending homelessness an important priority; many are engaged as volunteers, advocates, and donors. While this has been critical to our success, we know that ongoing public education and awareness about homelessness will help challenge myths and opposition to proposed Plan efforts, particularly in the location of new affordable and permanent supportive housing. We will continue to develop targeted and ongoing public marketing campaigns working with the media, business sector, faith community, volunteers, and Indigenous leaders to enhance public understanding about homelessness and challenge reactive approaches to this complex social issue.”

Staff and steering committee members from CRIHI have been in conversation with the City of Edmonton and other partners about the need for this for some time now, and are eager to assist in this important effort.  CRIHI’s efforts at public education via our regional workshops are mentioned in the report.

Homelessness numbers

Areas of possible engagement for faith communities:
1. Connect with local social workers or service providers, and offer to provide a fund to help them intervene before individuals or families are evicted.  Have a conversation.  Build trust and understanding, and find opportunities together.
2. Make room for supportive relationships to grow.  Consider hosting mental health, or grief and trauma workshops, or Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous circles.  Host parenting or marriage support groups.
3. November is Housing Month.  Watch for news and educational efforts on housing by CRIHI and other partners.  Read.  Share.  Talk about it.  Invite CRIHI to visit your faith community to learn about the need and how we can respond.  Website still being updated for 2017: housingmonth.ca
4. Creating more affordable housing will help prevent people and families from falling into crisis. If you or your faith community has access to land, consider working with non-profit developers to build or incorporate affordable housing.
5.  If you are a landlord, consider connecting with housing providers.  Talk with them about possible ways you could make room for to someone who needs help affording a home.

Access the full plan update report at the following link:

https://interfaithhousinginitiative.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/edmonton-update-plan-july-2017-full-booklet-web.pdf