Municipalities aim to keep seniors’ housing subsidies

Provincially supported housing is in rapid decline in many Alberta communities, but one group wants to put an end to the slump.

Provincially supported housing is in rapid decline in many Alberta communities, but one group wants to put an end to the slump.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) is working with communities, like Ponoka, affected by a decision to remove grants in-lieu of taxes for housing owned by public housing management bodies.

Barry Morishita, vice-president of AUMA says the province has recently announced it is taking away the support it had been providing to municipalities for social housing, leaving the municipalities to foot the bill for these feacilities.

Morishita suggests services provided in the way of reduced housing costs on buildings owned by the province should not be passed on to municipalities. The announcement was made in 2015 that this would be coming down the line and confirmed recently at the mayors’ caucus in Edmonton.

“The rest of the community’s residents are paying for the province,” said Morishita of the new situation, which he likened to a group deciding not to pay for services or taxes but continuing to have those services paid for by someone else, in this case residents of the communities who pay their taxes to to munipalities. Morishita suggests this adjustment is a direct download to the community.

In most cases, this falls under seniors housing where residents live in a subsidized home in the community. Recently the AUMA requested municipalities support their endeavour to reinstate the grants in-lieu program by supporting letters to newspapers.

Town council voted in favour of that endeavour during the regular meeting held on Tuesday, March 22.

Morishita says the annual cost to the province for this program is approximately $16 million.

Information provided by the Town of Ponoka shows there are 92 social housing units in town with 80 inhabited by seniors and 12 social housing. Of those, two are houses for families plus Anniversary Arms, Slater Place and Reid Manor.

In 2014, the town received $29,950 in grant funding, approximately o.5 per cent increase in property taxes.