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Housing concerns to dominate Council meeting

PHOTO. Due to ongoing renovations to council chambers in Jubilee Plaza, RMWB Council meetings will be held at the Syncrude Athletic Park Clubhouse until further notice. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood.

The Advisory Committee on Aging (ACOA) shall present to RMWB Council on Feb. 11, 2020.

Mayor and Councillors expect to hear from Chair Linda Mywaart on the group’s findings on affordable rental accommodation for seniors.

In October 2019, Alberta’s Ministry of Seniors and Housing implemented a hold on new clients to its Rent Supplement Program while it conducted a review.

Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) said they expect a resolution between late February and early March 2020.

RMWB Council shall also hear a report on Wood Buffalo’s rural homelessness situation.

Affordable housing

WBH monitored the Rent Supplement Program in the region.

ACOA met on Jan. 16, 2020, to discuss the program and the moratorium on subsidies.

They would provide residents and families with rent subsidies to find affordable rental accommodation among qualifying rental projects.

Prior to the hold, the program assisted 410 households in Wood Buffalo, including 14 in the rural service area.

22 seniors or individuals 65-years and older, from both urban and rural areas, receive assistance.

According to WBH, its waitlist records 176 applicants, including 26 from the rural service area and 17 seniors.

WBH could not accept new applicants due to the freeze, so current numbers on the actual demand for rent subsidies are unavailable.

During the last fiscal period, the Municipality received $4.9-million toward rent supplement.

Alberta said they would decrease the supplement over three years by 24 per cent.

Therefore, total rent supplements to the RMWB at the end of the cutbacks would be $3.7-million.

ACOA and administration shall ask RMWB Council to approve a motion authorizing the Mayor to write a letter to Alberta Minister of Seniors and Housing, Josephine Pon.

The letter would request the province expedite its review of the Rent Supplement Program and quickly inform Alberta’s municipalities of its findings.

Also, the administration requests a meeting with Minister Pon at the upcoming Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Spring Convention.


Rural Homelessness

The administration will present its estimation report on homeless in the RMWB, which Mayor and Councillors commissioned in March 2018.

Developed by the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN), the survey collected data between late 2018 and early 2019.

The report includes the communities of Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, Anzac and Janvier.

Another organization conducted a separate estimate for Conklin.

In its Executive Summary, the report gathered information according to housing instability, employment, income, family demographics, and access to services.

148 individuals from the four communities participated in the survey.

According to its aggregated or total results, more employed women accessed services than men.

Also, the report found the Métis peoples made up a majority of the unstable housing population with Métis men dominating the unemployed unstable housing population.

52 of the 148 residents, who live in or with someone in unstable housing, were children.

The report found shared and individualized cases in the communities.

Anzac reported zero women working in trades, Fort Chipewyan has a large senior population, and Janvier held a high unemployment rate among women.

Fort McKay said 11 out of its 25 respondents indicated substance use was the primary reason for unstable housing.

In its motion, the administration requests RMWB Council ally with community partners to find solutions to address inadequate housing in these communities.

It also asks for Mayor Don Scott to write to the appropriate ministries in provincial and federal governments.

The letters would invite the ministers to visit Wood Buffalo to see housing conditions first-hand and discuss how to address the rural homelessness situation.

Council begins at the Syncrude Athletic Park Clubhouse on Feb. 11 at 4:00 p.m.