Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson says confronting deferred maintenance repairs of seniors lodges and housing is a priority for the province.
Sigurdson said more than $238 million will be put towards addressing the $1 billion-backlog of maintenance and repairs inherited from the previous government.
“Most housing units are at least 30 years old, and in the cases of senior lodges many are 40 or more years old,” said Sigurdson, who spoke to members of the Alberta Seniors Communities & Housing Association convention held at Sheraton Red Deer on Tuesday.
The NDP government recently committed $1.2 billion over the next five years in affordable housing and seniors lodges as part of its new fiscal plan, but others want to turn back the clock and are calling for extreme and reckless cuts that will make a bad situation worse, she said.
“They are proposing billions of dollars in cuts to front-line services, no new schools, no new hospitals, no new roads, no plan to open up new markets and no investments for housing or seniors. The government sees things differently. This government believes it’s time to invest and we’re doing just that.”
She said the province is also investing $581 million into the major replacement and renewal of existing social housing and seniors lodges.
“(Seniors’) contributions to our province was enormous. They worked hard and played by the rules to save up a little nest egg that they could retire on, carefully calculating every nickle and dime to make ends meet. But many of them can’t find an affordable, safe place to age in community, especially in these economic times.”
Another $60 million has been allocated for fire and safety system upgrades for 6,600 senior lodges and continuing care units across the province, with $30 million of that money to be invested this year, she said.
On Tuesday, Sigurdson announced the continuation of a $150,000 grant to the Alberta Seniors Communities & Housing Association (ASCHA) for its online seniors housing directory, regional collaboration, education, sharing best practices and to optimize utilization.
ASCHA members provide housing to over 30,000 seniors that includes independent living, supportive living and designated supportive living offered by the voluntary, public and private sectors.
Raymond Swonek, ASCHA president, said a two per cent increase to the lodge assistance program grant this year was another piece of good news in the new provincial budget. There hasn’t been an increase for about four years.
And the government’s capital investment is huge, he said.
“That’s going to really help our organizations improve the condition for seniors in their communities and build more capacity, more affordable housing for seniors in the communities,” Swonek said.