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St. Albert council to partially fund Habitat for Humanity project

City approves $100,000 for four new homes
The four homes Habitat for Humanity requested funding for will be built by Averton in St. Albert's Midtown neighbourhood, pictured here in 2021. FILE/Photo

St. Albert city council approved a motion to provide Habitat for Humanity Edmonton with $100,000 to help fund the construction of four new homes in St. Albert's Midtown neighbourhood for the organization's home-ownership program.

The project was first brought to council's attention earlier this month, when Habitat for Humanity Edmonton's president Dr. Ann-Marie Reddy appeared at a council meeting to request $484,000 in funding for the project. In the days after Reddy's presentation, Coun. Mike Killick put forward the motion to give the organization $100,000, and the motion passed on Tuesday with only Coun. Shelley Biermanski and Coun. Sheena Hughes opposed.

The project in question is for four housing units with a total build cost of $1.72 million. Habitat for Humanity is looking for federal, provincial, and municipal funding for the project, with the $500,000 federal portion conditional on the four homes being sold to Black families, in accordance with the Canadian government's Black Families Funding Initiative.

The organization currently has 35 homes in St. Albert, which have been owned and lived in by more than 75 families. Habitat's home-ownership program aims to help families escape the rental cycle and purchase homes, which the families then live in and use to build equity before selling the home, usually back to the organization, which then sells the home to another family.

Killick told the Gazette prior to debate he hoped his fellow councillors would see the same opportunity he saw when it comes to leveraging funding from higher levels of government.

“I think this is a good investment,” he said. “And it does show that we are putting money behind diversity, equity, and inclusion, which has been a priority for council for several years.”

Killick said he landed on the $100,000 amount because it better represented the contributions the city should make to projects like these, in that the municipal contribution is much lower compared to higher levels of government, specifically because the proposed federal portion of this project is $500,000, and the provincial portion is $400,000.

Hughes said in an interview that she was hesitant to support the project given the four housing units will be solely for Black families, and not families in need in general.

“I realize it's the federal funding but we're also supporting that and we're also limiting who's eligible to receive the housing,” Hughes said. “That's a real challenge for me, to say that only a certain ethnicity is eligible.”

“I feel like as a government, we're there for the greater good and not for specific people only. This should just be for families that need it.”

For his part, Killick said he disagreed with that argument, as “just because we can't do it for everybody doesn't mean we shouldn't do it for somebody.”

“Diversity is a fact, but inclusion takes an act, and we need to act.”

Likewise, Coun. Wes Brodhead said supporting this project shows St. Albert is a welcoming community.

“I think this is an opportunity to make a statement about our community being welcome to all,” he said. “I think it's also an opportunity to take advantage of grant funding that's available.”

Prior to voting, Biermanski said she saw the situation differently, as she felt that Habitat's project was exclusionary.

“We're actually excluding diversity in this option because it's dedicated by race,” she said. “The other issue I have with this one is the family has to be earning $65,000 to $75,000 a year — that excludes, again, a large group of people from owning homes.”

“We're excluding so many people out of their means of finding a place to live, and I feel as a councillor that the funds would be better used in other areas.”

Project still a go despite partial funding

In an interview, Reddy said although council approved less than 25 per cent of the funding amount the organization had asked for, the project is still a go.

“It's a combination of a variety of different things that makes the project viable,” Reddy said. 

“This wasn't in their budget, and for [council to be] even willing to give us any amount of money outside of their budget is extremely precious to us.”

During the April 16 meeting, council also heard from Habitat for Humanity's vice-president of finance and mission delivery, Daryl Hahn, that the organization would have proceeded with or without any amount of money from the city, although the city's contribution allows them to put their own capital dollars towards other projects.

“Our resources are quite limited,” Hahn said. 

“That being said, [partial or no funding] will compromise our ability to add new [housing] stock in the future.”

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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