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Alberta to fund $120 million for Indigenous affordable housing

Metro News logo Metro News 2017-03-20 Jeremy Simes - Metro

Martin Atkinson, a supportive housing worker at Ambrose Place, says there's a strong need for Indigenous affordable housing in Edmonton. © Jeremy Simes Martin Atkinson, a supportive housing worker at Ambrose Place, says there's a strong need for Indigenous affordable housing in Edmonton.

Martin Atkinson has worked with Indigenous people on Edmonton’s streets for 16 years.

And the biggest problem he sees today is a lack of affordable housing, he said.

“The need is very, very strong,” said Atkinson, a housing support worker at Ambrose Place, an Indigenous-focused centre that helps people transitioning out of homelessness.

“We do need more housing. I don’t think there is enough of it right now.”

So he’s optimistic to see the province boost funds for affordable housing, particularly for Indigenous people moving off of reserves into cities or towns.

“I see a greater need, and we could always do more.”

The provincial budget tabled last week has the government committing $120 million to affordable housing for Indigenous people moving off reserve into towns or cities.

“We’re working with the municipalities, rural or urban, to create plans and structures to move forward,” Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said Thursday.

Feehan said the number of Indigenous affordable homes earmarked for construction will vary, as it’ll depend on what communities need.

“Some will want multiplexes and others will want housing that’s different,” he said.

They could also accommodate cultural practices, but that will again depend on what communities are looking to build.

Atkinson said the need for housing is immense because many people who move to Edmonton fall through the cracks.

“More Indigenous people are coming to the cities and more are becoming homeless,” he said. “But they’re not only homeless — we have to help with their addictions and mental health.”

But only providing homes won’t be enough, he added.

“We have to show them how to live. We have to support them,” he said.

Feehan noted the government is also improving housing on reserve, by helping to fund green retrofit projects so people can install new water heaters, windows and doors.

“They can put solar panels on buildings and construct major utilities feeding back onto the grid,” he said. “It improves lives and develops a relationship with the larger economy.”

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