News / Edmonton

Alberta politicians call for permanent affordable housing in wake of Metro story

Provincial and municipal politicians are calling for permanent affordable housing to be built, after a Metro story detailing the plight of people on social assistance forced to live in often-unsanitary discount hotel rooms in Edmonton.

Coun. Scott McKeen said he was deeply troubled to read Metro’s story Tuesday, which focused on an Edmonton Police initiative dubbed Project Watch.

That investigation looked into crime around some discount motels in the city. What it found were people living on social assistance living in hotel rooms with mould, bed bugs and other serious problems — which the province was paying high fees for.

“I’m really disheartened to see that this has been going on,” said McKeen. “It’s important that the public understand the extent and nature of the issues with homelessness.”

McKeen said he applauds Edmonton Police for bringing attention to the issue and said governments need to act to address the issue. “This is god awful. These are our fellow citizens and we have to better by them."

Angela Pitt, the newly elected Wildrose MLA for Airdrie, said situations like this are clear examples of where no one is winning.

“It’s bad for the neighbourhood. It’s bad for the taxpayers and it is obviously bad for the client,” she said.

She said the government will have to look at long-term solutions and not just simply writing cheques to questionable motels month after month.

“People need a hand-up and not a hand out and these poor living conditions really help nobody.”

McKeen said he intends to see if the city can do better inspecting the facilities or with business licensing, but added the best solution is to get affordable housing built.

He said the $8,000 a month Metro reported the province is paying to house one family is insane.

For that money, “We literally could have put them in a brand new, 3,000 square foot house and paid the mortgage, plus bought groceries and had a social worker drop by,” he said.

McKeen said he would also like to see the “predatory” motel owners face consequences.

“I hope to see that they get brought to justice,” he said.

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