In June 2017 CHRA kicked off a new blog series. These blogs are intended to provide firsthand accounts, insights, and perspectives by CHRA staff, members, and Directors on issues and developments occurring in the social, non-profit and affordable housing space in Canada. CHRA Members are invited to submit blog suggestions. If you wish to submit a blog, send an email with your blog to Mark Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions should be no more than 750 words in length, should be written in first person, and should address a housing related issue. CHRA reserves the right to screen all submissions.
Written by Maya Kambeitz, CPHR and Cynthia Mazereeuw. Maya is the Executive Director and Cynthia is the Communications Specialist at Norfolk Housing Association in the Sunnyside area of Calgary, Alberta. www.norfolkhousing.ca
Last month the Government of Alberta released their long awaited housing strategy to a group of housing stakeholders from all over the province. Their announcement includes plans to support housing providers and tenants by allowing greater flexibility via the mixed income model, housing supports, and renewal of existing housing.
It is an exciting time in the province, to be sure, and one that comes with a lot of pressing need as we grasp our way out from under a deflated economy.
This is an important step in housing for all, and the governments, both federal and provincial, should be commended for prioritizing housing strategies and for including the mixed market model, whose benefits are undeniable.
Mixed market housing is an approach to housing that focuses on a non-judgmental integration of people from different socio-economic backgrounds. This is achieved through a balanced ratio of market and below-market housing within a given structure, where the effect is balance and integration and allows people to come together to build diverse, inclusive, and thriving communities. It also allows for people to continue to reside in their same homes and communities as their income increases, by transitioning to below-market or at-market rent.
This integrated model gives people the opportunity to participate fully in their communities and build a foundation for a good life, regardless of income or ability. It is an understood fact that people need an affordable, safe, and respectable place to live if they are to build healthy families and contribute to thriving neighbourhoods.
By utilizing a mixed ratio of market and below-market suites, organizations can achieve financial sustainability in order to continue offering housing for the long-term, providing for flexibility post operating agreements and changes in funding.
The mixed market model is not the be-all and end-all model; it cannot alone serve as the answer to all housing issues. However it is an important step in creating healthy communities, it prevents people from falling into (or back into) homelessness, it decreases pressure on the health and justice systems, and it offers people a chance to thrive when they have the basic foundation of home.
The model is a preventative measure: it addresses some of the causes of homelessness and the consequences that come from even short-term housing insecurity or homelessness, which we know at their worst to be drug addiction, alcohol abuse, broken families, and domestic violence.
Norfolk Housing Association has been implementing this model in the Hillhurst and Sunnyside area of Calgary for over 37 years. We are a housing provider that is rooted in values of compassion, respect, dignity and sustainability. By providing quality homes that are affordable and appropriate, building relationships and committing to being responsive and responsible to community members, neighbours, and residents, NHA demonstrates the value of bringing diverse people together to build healthy communities.
To encourage a successful integration of the mixed model or help existing providers explore the mixed model will involve collaboration, integration, and flexibility on the part of the government to allow providers, as subject matter experts, to explore it. Understanding on the government’s part that the entire process of housing individuals crosses various sectors and pieces will be essential to addressing the problem as a whole.
This is an exciting time in Alberta and across Canada, an opportunity to see everyone adequately homed in the near future, and a chance for providers to come together with government to make real, sustainable change. Together we can and will build healthy families that contribute to thriving communities.
By Dana Salvador - CHRA Staff
On June 26th, the staff of CHRA had the chance to take a tour of Ottawa Salus’ newest 42-unit affordable housing development, “Karen’s place” in Ottawa, Ont. Karen’s place offers its residence an affordable, comfortable and safe place to call home. With full size bachelor suites, common areas for building residents, a community garden, and laundry/washing facilities, the establishment and functioning of this housing project is made possible through $2.3 million of fundraising and donations from several Ottawa Salus donors and partners.
This special building is the first Passive Housing structure in North America to be built with light steel and is the first and largest multi-unit residential affordable housing project in Canada to be built meeting the “Passive House” environmental standard. The Passive House standard is one of the highest energy standards in the world and Salus is able to greatly reduce their energy consumption to a mere $27/year on heating costs for the entire building! Savings on energy allows Salus to not only reduce the building operating costs and its own environmental footprint, but also to focus their budget on supporting their clients.
Ottawa Salus’ supportive housing caters to both male and female clients living with serious mental illness in the Ottawa area. The Canadian charity, established in 1977, works to promote the growth and well-being of individuals dealing with mental health problems in the community by providing quality housing and support service in both English and French. Aside from providing them with a safe and dignified place to call home, Salus also offers other mental health programs and services such as case management services, community development services, transitional rehabilitation programs, occupational therapy services, as well as recreational and wellness services. These services are all catered to each client’s individual needs, stages in recovery and circumstances.
Upon entering the building, our staff was warmly greeted by the executive director of Ottawa Salus, Lisa Ker, who gave us an extensive tour of the building. The building is able to house 42 clients and is a facility which encourages the ownership of pets among residents.
On the main floor, the building has on-site staff to address the needs of its residents, coin-operated laundry machines available for resident use, a multi-purpose room used to cater the various events and programs the building offers for its residences, a full multi-purpose kitchen area, a beautiful backyard garden and outdoor area for its residence to make use of during the warmer months, as well as accessible units to cater to clients with accessibility needs.
We had the opportunity to tour one of the accessible units, which includes a full washroom with an accessible shower, a bachelor suite equipped with a full kitchen, a large window and storage space. Another unique element to the units it they are fully sound proofed from outside noise with the windows closed and their heating/cooling system regulates itself throughout the year to allow residents to adjust the temperature of their room slightly without affecting the temperature control of the entire building. We also got the chance to visit the maintenance room and learn how the inner workings of the building’s efficient heating/cooling system operate.
Overall, the tour of the Ottawa Salus Karen’s place property on Clementine Avenue was a great experience where we were able to explore and learn more about one of the newest affordable housing projects offered in the Ottawa community. The Clementine property is an incredibly innovative and ingenious affordable housing project which provides a great example of the future of affordable housing. Not only does it show that social housing complexes can truly be a comfortable environment for those who need it, but that they can be environmentally and economically efficient as well.
Dana Salvador - Student Marketing and Promotions Associate
Dana is currently working on her Joint Honours BSocSci degree in Communications and Political Science at the University of Ottawa.
After working with the CHRA, Dana hopes to broaden her experience working in her field and strengthen her knowledge on working with NGOs to push for government policy initiatives.
By Jeff Morrison, Executive Director of CHRA
In an era where we’re all so busy and many of us suffer from information overload, I know what you must be thinking: Another thing to read? One more item on my to-do pile? It’s true, there’s certainly no shortage of reading material available, even on a topic as specific as housing. But the staff and Board at CHRA often hear from our members and non-members alike that they don’t always understand everything that is going on nationally in housing, nor even within CHRA itself. So this new CHRA blog series is intended to be another tool in the communication toolkit to share ideas, information, and perspectives on what’s happening in the social and affordable housing space in Canada –and the more candid and direct, the better.
One of the questions I’ve been getting a lot lately is what is CHRA doing in regard to the National Housing Strategy. You’ll recall that the 2017 federal Budget announced over $15 billion for programs in social and affordable housing over the next 11 years (programs that mirrored many of CHRA’s own recommendations made in 2016), and that these programs will be more fleshed out when the government unveils its full National Housing Strategy this fall.
For CHRA, the time leading up to the NHS announcement provides a relatively brief opportunity to share our thoughts and views with the federal government on how those investments announced in Budget 2017 should be spent, and what else needs to be included. To do that, CHRA is currently finalizing two written documents. First, we’re preparing a letter to the Minister responsible for housing, Jean-Yves Duclos, outlining implementation recommendations for the Budget 2017 announcements. Second, we’re taking the feedback received at CHRA’s Indigenous Caucus held during Congress to prepare recommendations on a distinct urban and rural Indigenous housing strategy. As our Board Chair Stephan Corriveau said at Congress, “there can be no National Housing Strategy without an Indigenous Housing Strategy”. So we want to give the federal government a roadmap on what that should look like. Once approved by our Board, CHRA will share both those documents with our members, hopefully no later than early July.
I should add we’re not doing this alone – we’re in regular contact with our stakeholder partners such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Co-op Housing Federation of Canada, and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness to align our ideas as much as possible.
From there, over the summer we plan to meet with CMHC officials, politicians, and other stakeholders to communicate and push for our ideas to be adopted. With the Strategy scheduled to be released this fall (date unknown), the summer provides our last window of opportunity to shape the final version of the Strategy moving forward.
Before concluding, I want to extend a thank you to all the delegates, sponsors, speakers, and tour hosts who helped to make our 2017 Congress a success. CHRA Congresses seem to get bigger and better every year, and that’s thanks to you. I also want to thank my staff colleagues who put in countless hours to make Congress what it was.
I look forward to reading and hearing what thought leaders in housing have to share with us as part of this ongoing blog series.