Canada’s mayors, at a housing conference in Toronto have put the challenge to the Trudeau government to invest $12.6 billion, of an available $20 billion towards affordable housing. Mayor Don Iveson told the audience the same message he’s given in Edmonton annually when city council sets the budget. That money spent on supportive housing will save even more money for the province in other services.
He gave as an example, the story of a residential school survivor, who has mental health and addictions problems, who spent more than 400 days in an acute care bed at the Royal Alex Hospital.
“One of the nurses who runs that ward said ‘we could have put this gentleman up at the Fairmont for less money with 24 hour supervision than it costs to keep him at the hospital for 400 days.’ Now that’s an extreme case but there are hundreds of people in our city in that hospital who spend weeks or months and occasionally years for permanent supportive housing.”
“There is a business case for this. And the role of mayors is to advocate for the savings and the cost avoidance that will all come to all orders of government in justice and in health care.”
In Edmonton 171 supportive housing units have been closed because they had become unfit, Iveson said, to support the mayors’ call to have only federal money to build housing, but for program funding to operate the units.
“For the newcomer family, for the indigenous family coming to the city for services, or for health care or for education, and for the middle class, housing is not only good policy, as one of our elders put it who does inner city work in our community, ‘housing is the best medicine’ and that’s why mayors are passionate about it.”
He said the cost of a home in Edmonton now, is more than what the cost of a home was in Toronto in 2005. That’s why he sees the problem getting out of control. “Our country’s ability to attract and retain talent into our big cities from the hard working front line workers through to the innovators and all of the professionals, all of the public servants, that make our cities run, make them vibrant and make them innovative and competitive, is at risk. That’s what we need to address, that’s the urgency.”
The mayors also called for the creation of a separate “Indigenous Housing Fund.”