Municipal Minutes

Strathcona County/Fort Saskatchewan Edition

On Nov. 30, 2017, I had the honour of participating in the sub-regional housing consultation put on by Heartland Housing Foundation, the City of Fort Saskatchewan and the County of Strathcona.

During my time as a municipal official in Strathcona County, I co-chaired the Mayor’s Taskforce on Community Housing. There were recommendations that came out of that Taskforce that were approved by council and the work was started.

Council had a vision but it wasn’t until we were out of office that the vision began to take shape. That is why I found it particularly gratifying to see ideas and recommendations put forward by the Mayor’s Taskforce, progressing and making a difference for people in our community.

To sit in a room with stakeholders from the region and to realize that steps are being taken and people are passionate about creating housing for all, was heartwarming and encouraging.

For me, there were two programs that really stood out.

One is the Bridging the Gap subsidy program. This program pairs faith groups who have stepped forward to offer dollars for a rental subsidy program, Safe Place who have women who need housing for the next phase in their lives (after emergency, safe house care) and Heartland Housing who has the administrative infrastructure to manage subsidies. These groups are coming together to provide rental subsidies for women and their children in the region without having to build units and invest in high price capital that will need ongoing maintenance etc.

The second program is a soon to be launched website that will act as a matching system between people who have space and those who need a place to live. This is a bit outside the usual matching system because it allows and encourages people to post very specific situations. For example, a senior has a room they want to offer for low rent plus snow shovelling and lawn mowing. This may be an ideal situation for a student who needs a place to stay and has a strong back. This type of ‘matching’ helps our youth stay in the community and our seniors stay in their homes longer.

At the meeting on Thursday, we were given a sneak peak at the website and it was awesome to see it so close to reality.

Politics often felt like an unthankful job but these types of outcomes make it all feel worthwhile.