On April 12, city councillors voted to extend the moratorium on using city money for non-market and affordable housing in five neighbourhoods.

The moratorium began in 2012 when the Alberta Avenue, Eastwood, Queen Mary Park, Central McDougall, and McCauley neighbourhoods protested over the amount of social housing in their neighbourhoods. After that, the city consulted with them to determine housing needs and opportunities.

In March, city administration released exemptions to the moratorium for council to consider, which included projects like small-scale non-market housing and seniors’ housing.

John Whittaker from the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH) asked council to ease the moratorium and supported the exemptions. “The moratorium is not a solution, housing is.” He said all forms of housing are important, from supportive housing to market housing.

Cam McDonald, executive director of The Edmonton Inner City Housing Society (EICHS) added, “The moratorium is a bit of a divisive issue, but there is some support for well thought-out affordable housing.”

Several community members disagreed with the exemptions.

Cris Basualdo, an Alberta Avenue resident who has spoken up on the issue for many years said, “With these exemptions, our community will be the fall back as they’ve always been.”

Gerard Forget, another Alberta Avenue resident, remarked, “The recommendations from the executive committee are not complete. The five neighbourhoods in question are still saturated with non-market housing. There is still no mention in the report that non-market housing will be spread throughout the city.”

The five neighbourhoods currently have the majority of the city’s social housing. Coun. Scott McKeen speculated the reason non-market housing has traditionally gone in those neighbourhoods are because “community-wide, politically, it’s the path of least resistance.”

“It’s about the level of poverty in these communities, more so than the amount of non-market housing,” said Coun. Ben Henderson, and he added that the objective is to get back to a balanced neighbourhood.

Now city administration will again consult with the five neighbourhoods and develop a new report, due back by December 2016. During that time, administration will work with the neighbourhoods “to consider possible mechanisms for city housing interventions to lead neighbourhood revitalization and lessen the concentration of poverty.”

“The next report is an opportunity to work with residents to directly address the issue of poverty which has been a concern raised by all of the moratorium communities for a number of years,” said Jessie Singer, a housing planner with the city’s sustainable development department. “Hopefully we’ll at least be able to get the groundwork laid for the next step.”

The moratorium will remain until the report is complete and approved. Then administration will recommend if the moratorium should be lifted along with any modifications. The city will also look at other neighbourhoods for affordable housing and work on citywide strategies.

The council’s decision is a positive development, said Brendan Van Alstine, president of Alberta Avenue Community League.

Overall I’d say I’m pleased. While the league definitely isn’t opposed to all of the exemptions that were proposed, we were concerned that they were quite sweeping and not very well defined.”

Feature Image: The housing moratorium will remain in place until a new report is completed this December. Credit: Karen Mykietka