Speaking Municipally urges council to step up on housing

Speaking Municipally urges council to step up on housing

· The Pulse

Episode 190 of Speaking Municipally challenges city council to spend the money needed to open supportive housing units, even though it's not the city's responsibility.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has been asking the provincial government to contribute $11 million towards the operation of several supportive housing complexes, two of which are sitting vacant for lack of operational funds. Waiting for that to happen is pointless, notwithstanding the province's $13-billion surplus, co-host Troy Pavlek argued on Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

"The UCP has given us no indication they ever plan to do this, and in fact, have given us every indication that there is no plan to commit this funding," he said. "Politically, let's stop holding out our hat to say, 'Pretty please, Mr. Province, let's be kind to these people who need our support the most.' Let's just fund it. We clearly have the money because we just funded a Healthy Streets Operations Centre."

Council decided in mid-August to spend $15.2 million over two years on the Healthy Streets Operations Centre in Chinatown, with about two-thirds of the money going towards policing.

"When they approved that, the mayor himself said we know that the underlying causes around the safety and security issues in Chinatown relate to mental health and addictions and housing and homelessness — those things are provincial responsibilities," said co-host Mack Male, expanding on a point he made in a tweet. "(Sohi) said, 'I'm under no illusion that we will be able to make our communities safer until we tackle these issues.' So they funded the police with money that maybe could have gone to address some of those root issues. And the reason is, 'It's not our jurisdiction?'"

Spending money to get people into housing would pay off, said Male, citing a new research paper on Housing First from the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

Hear more about this issue on the Sept. 16 episode, in addition to their takes on council's decision to support Phase 1 of regional transit, the postponed hearing on banning some single-use items, and a plan to change the way park development is funded, as well as what voting records reveal and what they don't.