Ahead of the Provincial General Election next month, the Alberta NDP revealed their housing plan, entitled Every Albertan Deserves a Home, highlighting an overall commitment to providing homes for 40,000 people in the province within the next five years.
The housing plan, announced by NDP Leader Rachel Notley last week, includes 11 major points, and appears to address housing issues with a focus on improving various supports for low-income renters and initiatives to further increase housing supply.
"Today, more Albertans are living in insecure housing as the demand for permanent, affordable housing outstrips availability in communities across the province," Notley said. "Meanwhile, as the cost of rent and housing climbs, Albertans continue to experience the stress of crushing inflation. The UCP have decreased the number of provincially supported affordable homes by 8,000 and they cut financial assistance programs that support Albertans."
"Affordable Housing is a provincial responsibility, and we cannot afford to fall short," Notley added. "Alberta's NDP will act so all Albertans can have a safe place to call home and have the support they need to live a healthy and dignified life."
Alberta's provincial election will be held on May 29, 2023. Notley is seeking a second stint as premier, after previously serving from 2015 to 2019.
If elected, here's what the NDP have said they will do to address housing.
Provide Predictable, Consistent Funding for Shelter Spaces
The Alberta NDP say that they recognize that shelters are not a solution that can solve poverty, but that they are necessary as immediate solutions for those who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.
To keep this support reliable, the NDP says that the government's current "episodic and volatile" method of providing funding to shelters has to change, and that it will consult with various social organizations towards establishing a funding formula that can provide stable funding to shelters.
Build 8,500 More Social Housing Units
Perhaps the most ambitious aspect of the housing plan, the Alberta NDP says it will aim to build 8,500 additional social housing units, over five years, that will serve various communities and needs, such as seniors, people with disabilities, newcomers to Alberta, and those experiencing homelessness.
They estimate that this goal will cost over $2.6B, including a $1.5B investment from the Government of Alberta, and that this funding will then be granted to various housing providers, housing management bodies, co-operative housing, and others.
Increase Rental Assistance
Approximately 9,000 Albertans currently receive rental assistance, the NDP says, and its goal is to increase that number to 20,000 over the next five years, to ensure that more Albertans "do not spend more than 30% of their income on housing" -- the traditional definition of what makes housing affordable.
The NDP say that it will work with housing providers to ensure this assistance is administered as quickly as possible, and that this increase to rental assistance will cost an additional $87.5M.
Providing More Wrap-Around Support
In conjunction with the social housing goal, the NDP is also proposing $46.5M, annually, to provide operational funding towards 2,000 "specialized" social housing units with wrap-around services, aimed at those experiencing homelessness, poverty, or challenges regarding mental health and addiction.
"More substantive wrap-around services and secure housing provide stability for people in recovery from substance use addictions and therefore promotes more success in recovery," the NDP says. "Keeping people in stable housing saves costs throughout government services, including in health and the justice system."
Support Indigenous-Led and Designed Housing, Restore Indigenous Housing Capital Program
The NDP is proposing that the Government work with Indigenous people to create an Indigenous Housing Strategy, with an investment of $120M over five years into the Indigenous Housing Capital Program to use towards building housing.
The NDP point to the Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy in British Columbia as a model, and say that there is also significant funding available through the federal government's National Housing Strategy.
Create Accessibility and Inclusion Legislation
If elected, the NDP says it will develop an Alberta Accessibility Act that recognizes accessibility as a human right and commits to making Alberta an inclusive province.
"This legislation will move Alberta beyond simply identifying accessibility as an aspirational goal to establishing provincial accessibility standards in a range of areas," the NDP says, and will "outline a framework to identify, remove, and prevent barriers."
Increase the Threshold of Allowable Assets to Access Affordable Housing
After raising the assets threshold that determines who can access affordable housing from $7,000 to $25,000 when it was last in power, through the Making Life Better Strategy, the NDP is now proposing to raise the threshold once more, although they have not said what it may be.
They note, however, that this will only be done once the existing waiting list for affordable housing has been significantly reduced.
Reform Income Support and Additional Shelter Benefit
The NDP says that under the UCP, thousands of Albertans have been disqualified from receiving shelter support, and that the NDP would work towards reversing some of the UCP's policies and improving the Income Support program.
The NDP estimates that this will cost $18M.
Create Rent Banks to Protect People From Sudden Evictions
The NDP is proposing that Alberta establish rent banks that can provide interest-free financial assistance to people during emergency circumstances -- such as job loss, or a family breakdown -- that can cover rent and ensure they are not evicted.
Again, the NDP points to British Columbia, who established rent banks in November 2021, and says that this would require an initial $10M investment.
Review Renter's Legislation and Policy
The NDP points out that Alberta has not conducted a review of its housing policies since Premier Ed Stelmach's task force did so in 2007, when the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom unit was estimated at $788 per month. The NDP notes that the rent for a one-bedroom unit is now $1,560, and has increased by 23.3% from March 2022 to March 2023.
"Clearly, the time has come for another review and it is important that renters, housing providers, and policy experts are a part of this process."
Explore Creation of Attainable Homes Program
Aside from supporting low-income individuals and renters, the NDP says it also wants to support those looking to become homeowners, and that it will do so by creating an Attainable Homes Program.
They note that similar programs already exist on the municipal level, such as in Calgary and Edmonton, and have good track records with either providing a loan on down payments or a five-year deferral of the land portion on a mortgage, and that the Province could either enhance these existing programs or create an entirely new provincial program.