On June 26, the Government of Alberta released its new Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy. (PAHS)

Titled “Making Lives Better,” it lays out the details of their overall commitment to affordable housing in our province. It also outlines positive regulatory changes that are united with a focus on solutions that will provide more integrated housing and supports to those who need it most. Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) is encouraged with the Government’s overall commitment to affordable housing in our province and the effect it will have on those experiencing homelessness in our city.

Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness identifies the need to address the current gap for 15,600 Calgarian households in extreme core housing need. Action 6 in the plan provides strategic direction for all orders of government and outlines steps that each must take to play their part. The creation of a PAHS that aligns with the goal of ending homelessness was identified as the key component of this action item, along with calling for an increased supply of affordable housing while allowing municipalities the capacity to implement inclusionary zoning in land-use bylaws. The new PAHS itself fulfills this overall requirement, and identifies increasing the supply of affordable housing and working with Municipal Affairs and other government partners to support inclusionary housing throughout communities in Alberta as key pieces of the strategy. This specifically moves forward three steps as outlined in Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness: People First in Housing First.

The housing-first approach has proven to be highly successful in our efforts to end homelessness in our city. By adding greater flexibility in determining who is “low-income”, and modifying the scoring standards to include points for housing first graduates, the new PAHS allows for more successful transitions out of homelessness, providing more housing options for Calgarians. Raising asset limits will also improve the tenant’s ability to transition out of supportive housing, and by making regulatory frameworks more fair and flexible through the implementation of new points scoring systems that support vulnerable populations, the new PAHS enables the homeless-serving sector to house more people.

We’re pleased to see the Government of Alberta’s commitment to building more futures through the investment of $1.2B into affordable housing and the completion of 4100 new and regenerated units over the next five years. Given that Calgary remains the epicentre of homelessness in our province with over 60% of Alberta’s Homeless population[1], we encourage the Government of Alberta to consider a proportionate allocation of funding for new permanent supportive housing units, and we look forward to working together to facilitate the development of more of these units in our city.

As the system planner for Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care, we integrate the system to connect people to the right resources so the experience of homelessness can end quickly and compassionately as possible. We fund 26 agencies operating 55 programs, and we keep these programs accountable by defining their level of service quality. The new PAHS action plan provides clear direction to enhance the integration of housing and community supports. Specifically, it proposes working with other ministries such as health and community services, along with community partners to examine integration models and implement pilot projects. We know that integrated housing and supports are vital to achieving housing stability for those who are experiencing homelessness, and through the proven success of programs such as Calgary’s Bridgeland and Ophelia support program we’ve seen how partnerships between ministries and organizations such as CHF and HomeSpace Society demonstrate clear cost-savings and benefits that provide stable housing and services to those who need it most. Encouraged by the new PAHS, we’re enthusiastic about engaging in more solutions that will provide more integrated housing and support to vulnerable Calgarians.

According to the last provincial Point-in-Time (PiT) Count, Indigenous people are over-represented among those experiencing homelessness. They account for almost 30% of the total, while making up only 4% of the province’s population. The new PAHS stresses the importance of working with the Indigenous community to create opportunities to maximize investments and develop innovative housing solutions for their people, and we agree that affordable housing must accurately reflect the housing needs of Indigenous people and promote culturally appropriate programming.

Because we lead the country in the development and management of a coordinated data system for the homeless sector (HMIS), we know that access to higher quality data more accurately informs our decisions and allow us to effectively coordinate Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care to allow for greater cost savings in public systems usage. Through the PAHS action plan, we’re prepared to be involved in an information sharing plan that makes housing data and information resources more readily available. We know that the continuous collection, sharing and utilization of quality data consistently improves our knowledge of the housing and support needs of vulnerable Calgarians, and saves more lives.

By fostering community collaboration and information sharing we move closer to our shared vision of ending homelessness in our community. Together, we have housed over 8,400 people in our city and we have built over 480 units of permanent supportive housing. Together, we empower people to stay in their homes over 90% of the time while reducing public systems usage by over 69%. Overall, we are encouraged by the dedication our Government has shown to affordable housing in our province with our new PAHS.

The development of a Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy will have a positive and lasting impact on our collective vision of ending homelessness in Calgary, and we look forward to working more powerfully together as a community, because together, we can do more.

[1] 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness, (2017). 2016 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness.