Failing to engage Clearview Ridge residents before proposing Red Deer Native Friendship Society’s affordable housing project was a “rookie mistake,” says an expert in promoting collaborative community approaches to reducing poverty.
On Monday, city council rejected the Red Deer Native Friendship Society’s proposal for a culture centre and housing project because of local opposition.
The biggest issue for many Clearview Ridge residents was the lack of information from the City of Red Deer about what was intended for the area.
Paul Born, president of Tamarack An Institute For Community Engagement, based in Waterloo, Ont., that advocates community-driven efforts to reducing poverty by creating partnerships, said he would be upset too if a low-income housing project was thrust upon his neighbourhood.
“I think when we have situations like we did in Red Deer, it shows you that the traditional approach can also be very costly. It’s costly in the sense of people having hopes and then those hopes being shattered. And it’s costly in terms of time that people put into this and now have to go back to the drawing board. It creates divisiveness,” said Born who spoke to the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance on Wednesday, which was officially proclaimed The Day for the Eradication of Poverty in Red Deer.
The alliance is working to enhance the public’s awareness about poverty and to encourage actions towards reducing poverty in the Red Deer region.
Born said there needs to be deep level community engagement and efforts to be very creative about housing.
“I think Red Deer is a great city. It’s progressive. There are really good thinkers.”
“Is there a way we could be building affordable housing that would be acceptable to everyone. I know that sounds rather idealistic, and maybe Pollyanna. But the reality is it’s the only opportunity available to us.”
On Monday, council pledged to work with the society to find a more suitable location for its project.
“I think it would be a really good opportunity to start a dialogue, not only in (Clearview Ridge), and not victimizing anyone, saying that they were against it so they’re bad people.
“There are a lot of people committed to providing affordable housing. That doesn’t mean that people who were against it don’t care.”
Born said an open discussion should begin on how to build affordable housing that would be welcomed in neighbourhoods. What could be added to enhance the neighbourhood, for example a better park, if the city was going to intensify it? What is the role of developers in creating a mix of affordable housing?
“Concentrating low-income people in one area is never useful. So a lot of what we’re attempting to do now in affordable housing is create cities where there are a lot of mixed income neighbourhoods.”