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.
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.