Housing Thoughts: Empty homes tax?
Coun. Michael Janz, who also requested the city’s data after reading a similar report in the Calgary Herald, said he was interested in learning about Edmonton’s situation given the federal government’s temporary ban on foreign home buyers in hopes of cooling the housing market.
Edmonton should be looking at all sorts of options, including an empty homes tax similar to Vancouver’s, a different tax rate for multimillion-dollar homes, or cracking down on real estate investment trusts, while also focusing on building more non-market and co-op housing, he said in an interview on Wednesday.
“We’ve left the housing market to the invisible hand of housing capitalism and it has led to skyrocketing problems,” he said. “Foreign ownership is but one piece of that, that we’re seeing housing treated as an investment vehicle, not as a human right.”
While most homes seem to be owned by Edmontonians, Janz worries that in time this could change with the potential for speculators to grab up local property as has happened in Toronto and Vancouver. He worries that Edmontonians, including renters trying to save up for a downpayment, may have to compete against foreign investors and other speculators when looking for a home.
“Alberta is stable, we have a growing economy — the bones of Edmonton are very strong,” he said. “I see these same investors and the same problems that cratered affordable housing in other Canadian cities moving westward.”
Six Months Smarter, Stronger, Together (via Councillor Anne Stevenson) This series is a great round-up of our work at City Hall so far in the first six months.
- Prioritizing Housing Affordability for All,
- Taking Decisive Climate Action,
- Supporting a Diversified Economy and Mobility Network to Create Choice and Adaptability
- Breaking Down Budget Silos to Find Systems Savings and Considering Full Lifecycle Costs of Infrastructure
- Making Data-driven Decisions Informed by Effective Community Consultation
- Investing in Public Spaces Where we Can Connect With Each Other and With Nature
- Working Consistently Towards Reconciliation
- Promote Community Wellness to Improve Neighbourhood Safety
Problem Properties (Via Councillor Salvador)
Beyond implementing the community property safety team and providing dedicated resources for problem properties work, the motion presented at committee also included exploring a stronger approach to having properties be demolished, as well as using property tax subclasses to keep owners accountable for their properties. In August, council will be getting a report back on options related to demolition and/or disposition of problem properties, as well as options for creating tax subclasses for derelict residential and non-residential problem properties. (https://www.ashleysalvador.com/post/a-stronger-approach-to-problem-properties)
Infill Compliance (via Councillor Salvador):
I was pleased to read that there has been a downward trend in the number of complaints. Peace officers are seeing dramatic reductions in the number of complaints they receive for infill; in 2017, there were 659 complaints, in 2020 there were 386 complaints and in 2021, there were 371 complaints. The total number of development compliance complaints substantially decreased from 186 in 2018 to 54 in 2019, 32 reported in 2020, and 33 in 2021. That’s evidence of significant improvement, and a reduction in the negative experiences of Edmontonians near infill projects. (https://www.ashleysalvador.com/post/the-next-chapter-for-infill-in-edmonton)
Supporting Community Leagues (Via Councillor Rutherford)
The first motion called for Community Leagues to be considered as key partners in Covid-19 recovery. Specifically, the motion calls for a package to be presented in the Fall 2023-2026 budget with increases to the Community League Operating Grant and the Community League Infrastructure Program. The package will be deliberated this fall. Additionally, our policies need to account for the diversity amoung our neighbourhoods so no League is left behind! Leagues vary greatly in needs, population size, and capacities to offer services. That’s why I put forward a second motion to review the grant and infrastructure program, in consultation with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, to look for ways to enhance equity and efficiency in application processes and distribution of funds. (https://www.erinrutherford.ca/updates-blog/supportlocalcommunityleagues)
An increase of $880,000 for women's shelters (Via Councillor Jo-Anne Wright)
Edmonton city council is dedicating $880,000 to women’s shelters across Edmonton. Instead. councillors decided to use that money for social initiatives and funding for women’s shelters came from that pot. The one-time investment will be used for mental health supports, cultural support, nursing resources and for people who have precarious immigration status. Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters’ Jan Reimer said shelters rely on provincial funding and donations. Money from the city is unprecedented, and will go a long way.
Encampment Response via City Of Edmonton Homeless Response Team
Social disorder associated with homelessness, like encampments, needle debris or disruptive behaviour, is a symptom of a lack of adequate housing, shelter options, and support. Over the last seven years, Edmonton has experienced an increase in the number of people sleeping in encampments, reflected in steady year over year increases in public complaints to 311. In 2016, we recorded 790 encampment related calls and in 2021, we received over 6,200 calls reporting encampments throughout the City of Edmonton. Our encampment data shows that in the month of February 2022, we experienced a 20% increase in monthly complaints, which is the highest on record. The number of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness has more than doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Homeward Trust’s By Name List (BNL) serves as a real-time record of people experiencing homelessness across Edmonton. As of April 1, 2022, there are more than 2,810 people experiencing homelessness Of those people, up to half are either currently staying in shelter or are unsheltered, with the remainder provisionally accommodated (couch-surfing, short-term housing, etc).
In conjunction with our partnering stakeholder agencies, additional Peace and Police Officer resources have been requested for our Encampment Response Teams which we anticipate will be operational by the first week of May. Our goal is to double the number of response teams in the field. On top of increasing the number of teams, additional Peace Officer resources will also be trained for overlap coverage or if more resources are needed to supplement the initial coverage. Special patrol schedules from the Park Ranger Peace Officer program can supplement high priority areas to reduce the number of immediate reoccupations and enhanced social presence.
Some information on the current Encampment Response Plan:
The Encampment Response Plan’s goal is to connect individuals to housing and support to leave encampments as soon as possible. We want to discourage the establishment of large encampments that have negative health and safety impacts on encampment occupants and the surrounding community.
Private property owners should report encampments or social disorders on private land to 311. If there is an occupied encampment, outreach workers will connect individuals to resources and housing options. This response works towards housing individuals before the closure of the encampment site and can take a few days to a few weeks. See the process at a glance.
The process aims to prevent high-risk encampments from establishing, address elevated stakeholder concerns, and coordinate the closure of encampments with clear and consistent connections to shelter and housing options. To do this effectively, the City, our encampment response team partners and EPS explored different ways to address a significant and growing issue.
We’d also like to share the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (NET) as a useful resource. This team works with residents, communities, businesses, and organizations to build solutions to create safe and vibrant neighbourhoods and communities. NET responds to repeated or significant incidents that may impact the security and safety of Edmontonians across the city. They work with the community to address the factors that contribute to the issue, along with reducing the fear of crime and social disorder by using problem-solving approaches. The NET team can be contacted to provide education and support to communities at [email protected].
If you are concerned about the well-being of someone who appears to be in distress, please contact the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team. For additional information on community resources, call 211. The best way to report an encampment for investigation and clean up is via 311. If you're looking for more information on the City's response to homeless encampments across the city be sure to visit our webpage. (via The Affordable Housing & Homelessness Team)
I'm pushing for more safety and well-being measures that you have noted. I too ride the LRT regularly downtown or trips with my family. I wanted to share with you a response I received from City Admin on the LRT issues as background:
Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Public transit operations and safety are a top priority for both City Operations and Community Services. Central Station is consistently one of our busiest transit locations and, as a result, we dedicate extra attention to monitoring and patrolling it. ETS will review the station and access points associated with Central Station, per the feedback you have shared, to determine if adjustments can be made.
With regard to safety in and around ETS property, ETS takes a multilayered approach to safety and security which includes collaboration with the Edmonton Police Service, Transit Peace Officers, and onsite security guards, as well as security infrastructure such as security cameras and emergency blue phones. Proactive patrols of LRT stations and transit centres are completed by police and peace officers and we have requested an increased peace officer presence throughout the transit system. Enforcement resources are supported by security guards who are a visible presence and offer a wide range of assistance to Edmontonians on site in our transit centres and LRT stations. Guards and Transit Operators all have a direct connection to the 24/7 ETS Control Centre and play a critical role in the timely reporting of incidents and requesting enforcement, police or other emergency support.
In February 2022, City Council also approved a Transit Safety Plan which will increase the number of Transit Peace Officer and Outreach teams on Transit. City administration, the Edmonton Police Service and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society will collaborate on an integrated and coordinated approach to crime prevention and targeted responses to criminal activity. We will also be working with Alberta Health Services to ensure that people have access to services that are out of scope for the teams. The Transit Safety Plan includes:
- Integrated and coordinated governance and operations for EPS, TPOs and other key partners, including crime prevention and response strategies
- More social supports, including expanding our Community Outreach Transit Team program with the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, and more partnerships with stakeholders such as Alberta Health Services
- More frequent cleaning of LRT stations and transit centres
- Space activation in our LRT stations and transit centres to create more vibrancy and welcome people to our transit spaces
In the short-term, you will see:
- More presence from EPS and TPOs in our transit spaces doing foot patrols
- More interventions from security guards to assist with overdoses in our spaces
- More involvement from AHS in conducting outreach related to addictions
- More frequent cleaning and custodial services in our spaces
In the event that you do not feel safe or require immediate assistance while using Transit, Blue Help Phones are located in all LRT stations and Transit Centres. Upon activation of the Blue Help Phone, security cameras are activated and you will be immediately connected to ETS Control Centre personnel. Alternatively, you can report disorder and/or suspicious behavior to the onsite guards or call or text Transit Watch (780-442-4900) 24/7. Non-emergency issues (such as cleanliness) can be reported to 311 for further follow-up. For 24/7 non-emergency Crisis Diversion support for shelter, intoxication, and mental health, call 211 and press 3. In an emergency, immediately dial 911. These reports are critical to ensure proactive resources can be deployed.
With the approval of the Transit Safety Plan referenced above, we have been working diligently to hire and implement that plan as quickly as possible. With two new TPO Sergeants, we will be starting a foot patrol program with the Transit Peace Officers while will shift our focus from reactionary call response to a more dedicated proactive presence in the most problematic locations across the entire transit system. This foot patrol program will be starting in mid-May, when TPO schedules can be realigned as per their collective agreement. Additionally, new COTT resources are scheduled to be in place by June as we work with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society to get our teams selected and trained appropriately.
Although City of Edmonton peace officer resources can have a crime prevention effect, responding to crime or conducting criminal investigations is not within the scope of their peace officer designation from the province. As a result, we’ve been partnering with the Edmonton Police Service in a number of ways over the last few years, first with their LRT Beats program and then, since that program was dissolved, with their Crime Suppression Branch. In the past few months, their resources have been instrumental in supporting our nightly facility lock up process, and they have coordinated for EPS beat teams to place more attention in monitoring and patrolling transit spaces. We have conducted a number of public safety engagements in transit stations in conjunction with the EPS Community Engagement Team and we will continue to work with EPS at an operational level to address the challenges. (Via the Transit Safety Team)
EPCOR CEO makes $3.1 Million in 2021, an increase of nearly $1 Million (Via Working Families Edmonton)
Tell the City of Edmonton as the sole shareholder in EPCOR to rein in the exorbitant pay packages that are given to it's CEO and board directly from the pockets of working families in Edmonton. Sign the petition HERE and don't forget to share with your friends, families and neighbours as this issue effects all of us and don't forget to tell everyone you know to get involved and push for responsible change. - Via Working Families Edmonton