Headlines: April 18, 2023

· The Pulse
  • City council agreed in principle last month to fund the renovation of 882 of the 952 city-owned social housing units managed by Civida for a cost of $10.5 million. In 2022, Civida found 92.6% of its subsidized city-owned homes were in poor to fair condition. The city has said 376 units are in poor condition. Total repair costs are estimated at $34.7 million. A council Q&A document for the 2023-2026 municipal budget says much of Civida's housing stock is "nearing end of life" and will continue to erode without investment, which could lead to the units being discontinued and properties being defaulted for demolition. Jim Gurnett, spokesperson for the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, suggested the renovations are needed because of years of underinvestment by the provincial and federal governments, adding that a failure to build enough housing or maintain the quality of housing built with public dollars represents a "callous disregard for people who live in poverty."
  • City council unanimously approved a series of recommendations intended to improve the accountability and transparency of the Edmonton Police Commission. Administration was asked to prepare bylaw changes that enable council to create an independent third-party entity to manage allegations of breaches of the commission's code of conduct, conflict of interest, and oath of office policies. Administration will also work with the commission and police on an alternative dispute resolution process that can resolve issues before the province gets involved. Council also voted to advocate to the province to appoint a chair on a full-time basis. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called the changes "very positive" and said they will strengthen council's relationship with the commission and police. Council voted against having discussions to expand the commission's mandate to include oversight of all city programs related to safety and well-being until more information about the option is available.
  • Participatory budgeting initiatives by Coun. Keren Tang and Coun. Andrew Knack were spotlighted in a Globe and Mail article. In 2022, the councillors put a total of $50,000 towards 23 grassroots projects in what may have been the first attempt at the citizen-led practice in Alberta. The money came from surpluses in their yearly ward budgets, which councillors are allowed to spend on small-scale projects. "Rather than spending the money on yourself, you can just give the money back to the community and make sure it doesn't get absorbed into this big corporation but a bench, a chair, a tree, or something in the ward," said Tang, who hopes the effort leads to policy shifts that empower community at a time when trust in institutions is eroding. Administration is expected to produce a report at the end of the year on how participatory budgeting can be expanded in Edmonton.
  • Christel Kjenner, the city's director of affordable housing and homelessness, spoke with CFWE Radio about the city's work to create Indigenous-led emergency shelter spaces for people experiencing homelessness. "We want to equip Edmonton's homeless-serving sector with all the tools needed to help get folks access to permanent housing and help them resolve their homelessness permanently," she said. Indigenous-led organizations or governments can express their interest in running a shelter or transition space until May 19.
  • The Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA) announced three programs that put a total of $1.8 million toward business growth, retail, and dining in the downtown core. The Downtown Retail Project, a partnership with Avison Young, will provide up to $250,000 to up to six retailers to offset costs of building a new downtown location. The Downtown Patio Grant will make $5,000 available per business to help build or improve patios. The Business Adaptation & Revitalization Program will connect up to six businesses with a consulting group of University of Alberta business students for six weeks. The EDBA's website has more information about each program and how to access funding.
  • The city is welcoming golfers back to municipal golf courses for the 2023 season. Rundle Park Golf Course is opening April 18 at 12pm, Victoria Golf Course is opening April 20 at 12pm, and Riverside Golf Course will open in late April, weather and conditions permitting.