Homelessness has been a problem in Lloydminster for a number of years and groups in the city that keep an eye on it are saying the main issue is lack of affordable housing. The last homeless count that was conducted happened in 2013 and saw that roughly 35 people were living on the street and it seems that number hasn’t changed much.
Rev. Michael Stonhouse, president of the board for the Lloydminster Social Action Coalition Society, says that though apartment rent costs have decreased it’s still not enough to help people at what he calls the bottom echelon of renters.
“(It’s) an enormous problem and that’s when you consider not just the absolute homeless but the lack of affordable housing. This is something that the city is really quite concerned about and looking at,” said Stonhouse. “My solution is to look at affordable housing and I would really like to see a combination of public and private. Get developers to be part of the solution.”
Stonhouse recognizes that to get private companies on board there has to be an incentive for them so he suggests options like having the municipal or provincial governments give developers tax rebates or special deals on land if they build affordable housing and agree to fix rent prices. He says governments don’t have the expertise in drawing up buildings, so there’s a need for that private partnership.
“It’s a win-win. We get affordable housing and they get the business and make some money. I think that’s a pretty good thing,” said Stonhouse.
There is a new committee made up of city workers and representatives from social services, the Interval Home, the Lloydminster Men’s Shelter, the real estate board and Lloydminster MÃ©tis Housing Group that are also looking into the area of affordable housing. The committee meets monthly and is trying to get an idea of what the housing needs are in the city.
See “Affordable housing,” Page 3
They are trying to assess the demographics most in need of housing like single parents with kids or people without dependants and what the price ranges are to house them. Stonhouse says they hope to end up with a strategy for Lloydminster that would see them partnering with other agencies.
Another problem he mentioned was the federal government’s decision to cut back money they had put into social housing, placing the responsibility into the hands of the provincial and municipal governments. He says there are people who like to see the federal government help out again, though Lloydminster is still doing the best it can.
“What happened was that responsibility was downloaded to the provinces and the municipalities and frankly speaking neither the municipalities were ready or prepared for that,” he said. “It looks like here in Lloyd, the city here has already decided the Community Housing Initiative Program (CHIP) program last year is going to continue every year. The city has really said that affordable housing is something they want to be into.”
The next homeless count in Lloydminster is scheduled to take place on October, 10.