The results of a study commissioned by the City of Airdrie to look into the city’s affordable housing needs shows Airdrie is lagging behind in providing enough affordable housing for its residents.
“Airdrie’s rapid growth has created a dynamic where affordable housing/supportive housing hasn’t kept up with that growth,” said Matthew MacNeil, consultant with Housing Strategies Inc., the firm hired to do the assessment.
There are currently no emergency shelters or transitional housing units in Airdrie to help individuals and families who are homeless and in crisis. Airdrie has approximately 317 supportive housing units/spaces. Most of these are for seniors with medical needs.
Airdrie Housing Limited has 44 subsidized rental units and the Rocky View Foundation has another 32 of what are called below-market rental housing units. Additional units managed by the Calgary Housing Company brings this total up to an estimated 161 in Airdrie.
In Airdrie, Habitat for Humanity provides eight affordable homeownership units to families with children.
MacNeil compared the Airdrie data to Calgary and two other communities and found Airdrie lagged far behind in all categories of affordable housing. MacNeil said he could not name the other communities in order to maintain their confidentiality.
According to MacNeil, adopting a Housing First approach to affordable housing would help the city to address some of the shortfall.
“Basically, it’s cutting to the chase, eliminating the bottlenecks that often occur when you apply the shelter model and focusing on what’s most important,” he said. “That’s getting people into housing or safe, stable long-term housing, and then building their strength so they’re able to maintain that housing on their own.
“It’s also about saving the costs of building an elaborate shelter structure within the community – especially a community that doesn’t have one to begin with. It’s costly to build, it’s costly to maintain for the community.”
MacNeil said emergency shelters related to domestic violence are still a necessity, however.
MacNeil said the Housing First model is also preventative because it eliminates one challenge for people who may be struggling with a number of social needs. According to a study MacNeil said had been completed in Calgary in 2008, the cost to keep someone homeless – through providing emergency supports, not just temporary housing – is $100,000 per individual per year.
Council unanimously approved directing staff to move forward with a phased-in approach to introducing the Housing First model to Airdrie. Phase 1, including research into the Housing First model, will be conducted in 2018 with the other phases to follow.