We as ECOHH are gravely concerned as this Bill seems to be a thinly veiled strategy to privatize almost half of our non-market housing stock in Alberta (26,700 homes).
Changes and cuts to income support (i.e. additional shelter allowance) and AISH (i.e. de-indexing, changing the payment schedule) along with budget cuts to non-market housing have already resulted in increasing rates of housing instability and homelessness. Decisions that result in homelessness and housing insecurity are in violation of the human right to housing and the stakes could not be higher – especially at a time where sheltering in place at home has become essential to preserve our health, the health of our loved ones and our broader community.
Non-Market Housing Ownership
Our non-market housing stock is a public good, built for the purpose of providing an essential human need for households excluded by the private sector. Selling housing that is protected in perpetuity on the open market during will increase housing insecurity and homelessness. In addition to eliminating an already grossly insufficient resource, there is a fundamental conflict of interest with financialized and corporate landlords have as potential buyers of non-market housing. These actors have already benefitted by diminishing our current affordable housing stock, driving up housing costs (through speculation), and creating higher returns for shareholders while evading fair taxation off the back's of tenants. We have yet to see a legal instrument that would preserve tenure and affordability of the 26,700 homes in jeopardy. So far we have only seen the devastation created by austerity concurrent with ongoing financialization of housing.
No details have been shared as of yet with how the Government of Alberta aims to create 25,000 new affordable homes–and at what level of affordability. We know that many 'affordable' units that are at 5% or 10% below market remain vacant because they are not affordable for the over 24,000 households on our growing wait lists for housing. Practically, housing needs to be adjusted to income (i.e. 30% of income geared to rent), we need to protect our non-market housing stock, immediately close our housing gap by the number of households on wait lists in housing need and reinvest in income support and re-index AISH. What we do not need are changes likely to more than double the number of households currently on wait lists for housing from 24,000 to over 50,000 ( 1 / 2 ).
Bill 78 & Affordable Housing Panel
ECOHH provided a submission to the Affordable Housing Panel last summer (ECOHH's summary here). Five weeks after the closing date for submissions (August 31/20), the panel quickly released its final report (October 5/20) with deeply concerning recommendations.
Based on the Panel's final report, on November 1 the provincial government released their affordable housing strategy in the form of a 10 year plan proposed into legislation as Bill 78, the 'Alberta Housing Amendment Act' (strategy, summary, Bill 78).
On December 8, Bill 78 received Royal Assent and is expected to come into effect immediately. For your information, the Alberta Seniors & Community Housing Association (ASCHA) has shared a press release.
What Can I Do?
Join Public Interest Alberta's letter writing campaign calling:
- to keep our 26,700 non-market homes publicly owned
- for swift action to address the housing needs for the over 24,000 households on housing wait lists
- for eviction moratoriums and rent freezes until the end of 2022
- *send the drafted letter to the Minister of Seniors & Housing Josephine Pon and Premier Jason Kenney
Participate in the Consultation for Budget 2022:
- Government of Alberta Survey Open until January 15, 2022
- Voice the importance of reinvesting in housing and our public goods
- Make 3-5 specific asks, such as these 3 actions suggested by ECOHH as well as PIA's letter writing campaign (3 points listed directly above under #1)
- Immediate reversal of budgetary cuts and reinvestment in areas driving and creating homelessness: including housing, and community and social supports
–> Including reversal of policy changes that have functionally cut income support and supplemental benefits, immediately re-indexing AISH, and bringing back the 30 day notice of changes to income amounts.
–> Additional data & resources: ASCHA (data linked to bill 78 press release $ for housing not spent / left on the table) & ECOHH (2020 Budget analysis)
#1 and #2 widely with your family, friends and all of your social and professional networks.
to write to your MLAs highlighting these issues, advocating against Bill 78 and implementation.