Red Deer city council reluctantly turned down a $50,000 rent subsidy request to help tenants in Asooahum Crossing affordable housing complex.
Twelve of 16 units in the sober-living facility operated by Red Deer Native Friendship Society remain empty because of the difficulty in finding qualified tenants. Red Deer Housing Authority joined forces with the society to ask council for $50,000 as a one-time grant to help subsidize rents for new tenants.
Many councillors expressed their support for Assooahum Crossing on Tuesday but were concerned what would happen in a year if other funding support did not come through. The city has not previously provided this sort of financial support, which is a provincial and federal government responsibility.
Coun. Vesna Higham was concerned what would happen if a family that found a space with the city’s subsidy and then did not qualify for ongoing financial help through other programs and had to leave.
Mayor Tara Veer said she has spoken about the problem with Red Deer MLA Kim Schreiner, who is looking into what can be done at the provincial level.
There are provincial programs that are geared towards providing the sort of financial help needed in this situation.
Veer said there are other groups in the city which would also benefit from city rent subsidies but offering that support is beyond the city’s “operational capacity.”
The mayor was also concerned about the impact if the city had to turn down a request to extend the one-year subsidy.
Coun. Lawrence Lee said the city was being asked to fill a service gap left by another level of government. If the city steps in this year, there will be expectation that the support continues.
City manager Craig Curtis also cautioned council about the likelihood that further funding help would be requested after a year.
“It becomes institutionalized,” he said.
Coun.Vesna Higham said she was turning down the request with a “lot of reluctance and reticence” and hoped that the province was paying attention.
“For me, this is a critical piece of advocacy. I hope the province is listening right now.”
Only Coun. Ken Johnston voted in favour of the subsidy. Since it was the first request, he said he was willing to try it for a year.