Council restores housing society grant
Crouse calls on group, chamber to find a way to save city money
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
St. Albert’s Affordable Housing Society got the money it was looking for, but council is still looking for some cost savings.
Councillors unanimously agreed to restore $12,000 in funding for 2013 it had cut from the society’s budget in December. Council had cut the money on the understanding the society would move into the space vacated by the Business and Tourism offices, next to the chamber of commerce on St. Albert Trail. Consequently the housing society would pay nothing for rent and would no longer need that $12,000.
The chamber, which is negotiating a lease for the former Business and Tourism space with the city, has said it’s willing to sub-lease to the society, but at a higher cost than the society pays now at the Northern Alberta Business Incubator.
Council capped how much the chamber could charge for a sub-lease, but housing society executive director Doris Vandersteen said that, with moving costs, it would cost the city more than $12,000.
“It’s a large number for a small non-profit and to make that up with fundraising already in progress is a significant task,” said Vandersteen.
The housing society’s quest to have its funding restored has at times taken strange twists. When Coun. Malcolm Parker made a motion last month to restore the $12,000 in funding, Mayor Nolan Crouse was initially prepared to vote against the idea, even though it had been his budget motion in December that had called on the society to move to the former Business and Tourism offices and it was clear the society would have to pay more in rent if it did move.
Crouse argued at the time that he was “trying to save the taxpayer $12,000.” Withholding that $12,000 represents 0.0001 per cent of the total proposed 2013 operating budget of $120 million. Adding that $12,000 back into the budget now will increase property taxes by 0.015 per cent.
And Crouse is still not prepared to give up on the idea. After council endorsed giving the housing society its money, Crouse put forward a motion, unanimously endorsed by council, calling on him to write a letter to both the chamber and housing society asking them to find a way to save the city $12,000 “by having the chamber lease to the housing society at $11 a square foot.”
“We cannot tell either what to do. We have no policy on that so the only control council has is money,” Crouse said.
With the chamber’s access to 800 businesses and the housing society’s need for fundraising, Crouse called the idea of having both in the same building, “a marriage made in heaven.”
“The chamber is saying we have extra space. The Affordable Housing Society needs a space. I think it’s a marriage that just works,” Crouse said.