Alberta announces $3.2b plan to end homelessness

The Alberta government has today released a dramatic plan to end homelessness in 10 years by committing $1.2 billion in capital investments and $2 billion in operating funding. The plan – based on the “housing first” approach (which provides immediate housing and then offers supports as required) – will lead to the creation of 11,000 new homes by 2012, according to the provincial government. Full details, including funding and implementation lines, will be released in next month’s provincial budget. Alberta’s plan – the first of its kind among the federal government and Canada’s provinces and territories – builds on top of a record of dramatic increases in affordable housing investments in recent years. Alberta cut provincial affordable housing investments in the early 1990s, as did many other provinces, but has dramatically increased investments in the past couple of years.

From fiscal 2007 to 2008 (the latest year for which numbers are available), Alberta’s housing investments jumped 140% to $4.57 billion – a record increased compared to other provinces. With today’s announcement, Alberta’s investments are scheduled to continue to increase. The critical details of the Alberta plan will be closely scrutinized by housing experts (more detailed analysis from the Wellesley Institute will follow), but the news has surprised more than a few housing advocates who don’t expect the Alberta government to be blazing the lead on critical social policy issues such as affordable housing. Compared to Ontario, for instance, Alberta – at about one-quarter the population – is making investments in affordable housing that are substantially higher than Ontario, which is leading to the creation of more affordable homes in that province. Much of the credit for today’s announcement goes to active and energetic housing groups in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer and many other municipalities which created local 10-year housing plans and then “uploaded” the requirements to meet those plans to the provincial level.