Working in Municipal Family and Community Service Departments was some of the most rewarding work I’ve had during my career, as it allowed me to connect with community members daily. When you interact with community members, you tend to hear the good and bad of their situations and lives.
When residents face difficult times, they tend to turn to their municipality in hopes of finding solutions. With the current housing crisis in Alberta, this is happening more and more frequently.
While working with FCSS, it was common for residents to come into the office and seek assistance with social issues, such as housing. However, housing has never been a municipal government issue, but should it become one?
Housing, specifically the lack of affordable housing in Alberta, is a major issue.
Today, when residents approach their municipality about a housing issue, the municipality can direct them to provincial support. But beyond that, typically, municipal employees are not trained and don’t have access to resources and supports that may be available at the provincial level.
Still, residents feel more connected to their municipal government and resources than anything at the provincial level and feel their community leaders should be there in a time of need.
We are increasingly seeing municipalities adding housing priorities to their strategic plans. Tactics around housing can include working on zoning issues, working on partnerships with developers and advocating to the province for low-income housing options for residents.
While municipalities try their best to help with housing, it is an uphill battle. To a certain extent, the province has downloaded the responsibility of affordable housing but has not sent the appropriate resources to go along with it.
While municipalities can try to help with resources such as zoning and partnering with developers, that only allows new homes to be built and can only stipulate that a small percentage is set aside as affordable housing, it does not help residents that need access to the resources now – for shelter and to pay for housing. Unfortunately, municipalities cannot always access the necessary social resources. Municipalities cannot address the immediate issues without these social resources and provide lasting support.
Ultimately, it has been a disservice to both residents and municipal governments to expect safe, affordable housing for residents to be placed at the municipal level. While municipalities are doing their best with what is expected of them, it would be of greater benefit to residents if the province took the housing crisis back and dealt with it at a provincial level.
Would you like to share your thoughts or discuss how this issue is affecting your community? You can reach me at Lauren@strategicsteps.ca.