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Affordable housing funding heading to council debate

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City councillors will soon vote on the short and medium-term affordable housing strategy in Grande Prairie.

The strategy, delivered to members of the Protective and Social Services Committee last week, laid out the funding needs to make progress on affordable housing programs and infrastructure in the city over the next couple of years.

The plan will look to allot $1.3 million to the Grande Spirit Foundation for rental assistance programming over two years, $100,000 for land studies to help develop the smith subdivision, up to $150,000 in funding to a continuing care project, and the transfer of 19 social housing Units to Grande Spirit Foundation.

Director of Protective and Social Services Chris Manuel says ultimately administration has had a focus on moving the needle forward on affordable housing actions.

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“We were heading down one direction which was really more focused on long-term development and addressing a whole spectrum of needs,” he says.

“As a result of the pandemic, we decided to take a real hard look at the funds available at our disposal today, and finding the most effective means of getting those out the door to support people in the immediate and short term,” he adds.

Manuel says all the funding allocated in the report essentially makes up all available funding from the municipal budget for affordable housing, they simply needed to commit the cash.

He adds while they are looking to build on the baseline of services offered, including rental subsidy, he believes there is always room for improvement.

“We’ve been sitting at essentially providing 38 per cent of the demand… at a national level, communities are often only meeting 30 per cent of the demand for affordable housing,” he says.

“Historically, we’ve benchmarked better than other communities have, that being said, there are still a lot more people out there who need help.”

As of 2017, 477 households in Grande Prairie were on the waitlist for family or special purpose housing.

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