CALGARY (CityNews) – A $53 million cut to low-income housing maintenance is sending shockwaves through the social services community.
“We would have expected housing maintenance to at least stay steady from previous budgets, but certainly not go down from 53 million,” said Meagon Reid with Vibrant Communities Calgary.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi also reacting to the cut as the city is projecting a need for 15,000 more units.
“Of all the things you could imagine to cut, this one is a shocker.”
In #abbudget, there are some challenges, but the biggest one in the short-term is the $53M in cuts to affordable housing maintenance.
— Naheed Nenshi (@nenshi) February 28, 2020
Almost 90 per cent of Calgary housing units were built before 1990 and half of that number is older than 1980 according to a 2018 report.
“If someone moves on out of affordable housing, we can’t give their unit to somebody else because it doesn’t meet basic life requirements,” said Nenshi. “Without question, this means we are going to close affordable housing units at a point when we need 15,000 more affordable housing units. It might mean we’ll have to close entire buildings.”
With higher demand and less housing, it could mean someone stays in an unsafe environment.
“Somebody who potentially needs to move because they’re in a situation that’s violent. They may not leave that situation cause they’re afraid they’ll be homeless,” said Reid. “We know the longer that somebody lives in homelessness or precarious housing, the harder it is for somebody to get housed in the long term.”
Sarah Woodgate with the Calgary Housing Corporation says they’ll only have about 25 per cent of what’s needed to maintain provincial housing
“Which may result in additional closures and potentially building closures. This is happening at a time when there are 4,600 households waiting for housing and this number is increasing.”
She added it means 100 affordable housing units may close this year which will delay repair of other units.
“There’ll be insufficient funds to re-occupy a home later this year for about 100 homes. Then we would be running the properties without the rent revenue waiting for capital to improve the unit so that we can have a new occupant.”
Studies show a housing-first strategy is more economic in the long run. The CEO of HomeSpace Society also reacting to the cut, pointing to a study that shows for every one dollar spent on housing programs in Calgary, between 1.16 and 2.86 is saved, equalling $34,000 per person housed annually.
Reid says with less housing, there will be more pressure on shelters but ultimately the effects of less low-income housing aren’t always seen in plain view.
“That’s families, children, parents who are maybe staying with relatives moving from house to house. What we worry about is that we won’t know the full effects of this over time because sometimes that homelessness is hidden as well.”