Housing was the topic of discussion at a town hall meeting held at Parkdale-Cromdale Community League on Oct. 13.

Edmonton-Griesbach MP Blake Desjarlais hosted the meeting. Around 40 community members attended, including Ward Métis coun. Ashley Salvador and Ward O-day’min coun. Anne Stevenson, who represent some of the areas hardest hit by the housing crisis. MLA Janis Irwin attended later that evening.

Desjarlais discussed the challenges the area faces in regards to housing affordability and talked about community members forced to sleep rough each night. The lack of affordable, appropriate, and accessible housing has reached a crisis point not only in Edmonton but also across the country. Years of increasing housing costs without a corresponding increase in wages has left many Edmontonians feeling the pinch for housing costs. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate the issues, as does increasing inflation rates.

“These people are our community members; they are our relatives. I wouldn’t be here without those folks. My mom was one of them,” says Desjarlais. “We have a responsibility as a society, as a community, to really think about options that we should be innovative about. I am so grateful that every single one of you are here.”

Brad Lafortune, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, was the keynote speaker. Lafortune emphasized the idea of housing as a human right and how to ensure the conversation around affordable, appropriate housing is grounded in those human rights.

“It’s a top three issue…and I think that’s because it’s not just an issue that is impacting what people think of when they talk of housing security, “ Lafortune says. He adds that it’s an opportunity for advocates, leaders, and community members to explore the issues locally.

Unlike a typical town hall, where community members line up to speak into a microphone, this event had attendees seated around tables of five to six people with a facilitator and a note taker from Desjarlais’ team. Each table included people from varying economic, cultural, and professional backgrounds who were able to contribute a variety of opinions, experiences, and ideas to the discussion. The facilitator guided the discussion by asking key questions focused on various aspects of housing affordability. Questions were centred around perceived reasons for housing insecurity, barriers to safe housing, and possible solutions to ensuring everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate housing.  

Desjarlais and his team will use the ideas and concerns brought forth from the evening’s event to compile a report that will be brought to the House of Commons on the housing crisis in Canada. The hope is to drive home the scale of the crisis, to emphasize how immediate action is needed, and to offer possible solutions.