This week St. Albert city council threw its support behind a housing project that would bring 196 affordable housing units for seniors to the area.
Homeland Housing, which formed when Sturgeon and Westlock foundations merged earlier this year, is proposing a $61.9-million project with 80 per cent of the funding wanted from the province.
More affordable housing is long overdue. There is already a three-year waiting list for seniors to get into affordable units in our area.
Councillor Wes Brodhead, who sits on the Homeland Housing board, said the need is high in the area, but even more acute in St. Albert.
A rapidly aging population in Alberta, a pattern across the country, means the need will grow more urgent as time goes on.
The 2016 census data showed for the first time the number of seniors outnumbers the number of children in Canada. This is not a total surprise. In 2008 an Alberta Demographic Planning Commission Report projected the senior population would more than double by 2031 with an estimated one in five people being over 65. While not every senior citizen will require affordable housing, the numbers are expected to increase. St. Albert now has 10,065 residents who are 65 and older, accounting for 15.3 per cent of the city’s population.
The 2008 Alberta government report said the rapidly aging population will have lasting economic and social implications that will require a co-ordinated response to address such issues as housing, health, transportation and public safety, among others. The report also said the government could not address the issues alone. “It will require action on the part of governments, the private and non-profit sectors, communities, families and individuals,” the report said.
But here we are ten years later, and we are not even keeping pace with current demand, let alone preparing for the future. Even if the Homeland Housing project were approved today, it would take years to be open to seniors.
Dennis Magnussen, executive director for Homeland Housing, said city support is important because the local bid is competing for funding for similar developments across the province. Magnussen said that there are tremendous housing needs within the Edmonton Capital Region. Last year Edmonton reported two- to five-year waiting lists for some affordable housing units. The wait puts stress on seniors, their families and their communities.
Action is needed on all fronts if we are to meet the needs for affordable housing for needy seniors. We can’t wait any longer to address this growing problem.
Homeland Housing has started getting the ball rolling and city council is giving it a push. Now we need the province to run with the ball to commit funding. We will also need help from individuals and community groups to do their part. The St. Albert area has been committed in the past to addressing local needs and digging into their own pockets when they can afford it. This is a problem that is not going away and needs a co-ordinated response. The time for action is now.