EDMONTON - To mark National Housing Day, housing rights advocates gathered on the steps of the Legislature building to “evict” the provincial government for their doomed-for-failure affordable housing strategy and lack of urgency in addressing the housing emergency in Alberta.
“Housing is essential – just like food and water,” said Erick Ambtman, Executive Director of EndPovertyEdmonton. “Every single person in Alberta needs a safe place to call home. However, many people are struggling to access this basic human right. 24,000 households in Alberta are waiting for affordable housing support. And those who already have housing are facing rapidly rising rents, substandard accommodations, and the stress and anxiety that goes along with these realities.”
Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta added “Rather than helping these families and ensuring a recovery where no one is left behind, the Kenney government has given yet another gift to wealthy corporations, big financialized landlords, and developers. The UCP have handed over public housing into profit-motivated private hands – meaning the rich are getting even richer at the expense of struggling families. The UCP government has proven its not fit to tackle housing and homelessness or any other pressing crisis during this pandemic. And that’s why, today, we’re evicting them.”
Shima Robinson, a local spoken word artist and community organizer, highlighted the urgent need to address housing for all, and in particular for those most vulnerable to housing insecurity, poverty, and homelessness.
“Nationally, 1 in 3 renters are worried about making rent next month,” said Robinson. “Over 1 in 10 Albertans spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. This is unsustainable and sets people up, who are already vulnerable – immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, Indigenous people and more – to experience even worse outcomes such as homelessness. All levels of government need to step up immediately to address this urgent crisis. Despite the combined crises of homelessness, opioid addiction and overdose, and mental illness, each of those three issues remains a grave and urgent problem that needs attention, innovative approaches to prevention, and funding from all levels of government. Affordable, accessible, permanent housing is key to making necessary improvements to the standards of living for disenfranchised members of our shared communities. Meaningful government action on these crises is long overdue.”
Jim Gurnett, a housing rights advocate with the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, stressed the ongoing and worsening nature of the housing crisis.
“This ongoing crisis has been deepening for decades, and has been accelerated by the pandemic. In Canada, wages have stagnated for over 40 years and we have suffered with decades of cuts to public services – including public affordable housing. Canadians living with disabilities have seen their income support shrink year over year. In major Albertan cities, the minimum wage is far below the living wage where someone can afford adequate housing. Housing is a cornerstone of a recovery for all – we can’t leave anyone behind.”
“We can – and need – to do so much better,” said Lafortune. “Housing is a human right.”