EDMONTON - Today, Premier Smith announced her new cabinet to be sworn in this upcoming Monday. While many critical portfolios, like Health, Education, Justice, and Advanced Education, saw individual ministers slotted, there is one absence which is a major cause for alarm: housing.
“The pandemic has accelerated and deepened the housing crisis,” said Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “There is simply no excuse that the Alberta government is not appointing a standalone minister responsible for housing and homelessness – not to do so is out of touch with reality..”
“Instead of taking the opportunity to reverse course on the Kenney government’s disastrous plan to divest from affordable housing and privatize it, Premier’s Smith’s cabinet is set to ignore housing altogether,” said Lafortune. “Short of appointing a minister and declaring housing an emergency – with adequate housing for every single Albertan as the urgent goal – there is simply no way the provincial government will turn the tide on housing inadequacy, unaffordability, and homelessness.”
Last week at a housing town hall with community members from Cromdale and Parkdale in Edmonton, residents, city councillors, and MP Blake Desjarlais confirmed that housing and homelessness were top of mind issues for community members. Public Interest Alberta is working with community members, advocates, and leaders from across the province to develop an urgent program and policy to address the housing crisis from a human rights perspective.
“Just last week I got a call from a community association in Edmonton, well outside the core, saying they are experiencing signs of encampments for the first time,” said Lafortune. “This is not an downtown core issue. This is not a big city issue. The housing crisis is touching families across Alberta and it’s only getting worse. This is the time for leadership, not silent retreat.”
“We can and must do so much better by our neighbours. As a first step, the provincial government needs to appoint a housing minister responsible for adequate housing who can lead an urgent, coordinated homelessness response,” said Lafortune. “As an immediate step, that new minister should declare a housing emergency and deploy a command and control response to the deepening crisis in our communities. This response should include interdepartment data and resource sharing, extra-agency coordination, enhanced resources for emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, wraparound services, as well as an urgent pause and review of the disastrous provincial affordable housing strategy.”
“Housing is a human right,” said Lafortune. “Albertans deserve better than the disregard today’s new cabinet announcement suggests.”