Friday, May 14, 2010

Executive Committee Meeting

On April 21, several members of the McCauley Community League once again addressed the City of Edmonton's Executive Committee concerning the issue of putting a moratorium on subsidized and supportive housing in the area. Their complete presentations were transcribed by Sophy Yeung (the League's Communications person) and have been posted here for the community to read. The presentations took place in this order: Wendy, Sophy, Rob, and Father Jim. To view the meeting minutes and watch the video from the meeting, click here.

Father Jim's Presentation to the City's Executive Committee, April 21

Transcript of Reverend James Holland’s presentation to Executive Committee April 21, 2010

Mr. Mayor and Council members, thank you for allowing me to speak. I kind of have a little softer touch; they've given you all the stats, you've read them and seen them. First of all, to those who don't know me, I am the pastor at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. It is the official parish of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in this Archdiocese. We are very proud to be of status. Also I would like to tell you that less than 5% of the aboriginal people live in the inner city. Most of our aboriginal people, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, live in the entire city and most of them are very productive members of society.

The other thing is that I start my 16th year at Sacred Heart September 1. When I came to Sacred Heart, the inner city was a ghetto and the inner city is still a ghetto. Some things change. Some things get worse. And there are a few things that get better. We have a housing problem, but we have worse problems than that. I don't know of any other community, other than maybe some of the surrounding areas, that allows public drinking in the streets and on the corners. I don't know if any of the other 200 something communities would allow people to use their drugs on my doorsteps of the church, buy and sell drugs openly as if it is a market.

The agencies that work, work very hard. I am on the board of the Boyle McCauley Health Centre since 1997. I can walk into the Boyle McCauley Health Centre; someone will be using drugs on the front steps... in the back. They don't do it as much around my church because I have patrolled my church day and night.

I clean up the park because, being in the ghetto, we get services, but we are the last one on the list. They will service everyone else in the city, until they service us. Parks department has the park next door, which belongs to the Catholic School Board which is the Catholic Church. They service it whenever they have cleaned every park in the city. I clean the park personally every day. When the grass needs to be cut, I cut the grass, because otherwise we would have to get a hay bailer in there to cut it. That's the type of service we get today.

I don't call the police anymore because it takes them 2 hours, because there are so many other things, which our neighbourhood doesn't deserve. I also speak very much for those people we are talking about having rights. People who own houses, have lived in that neighbourhood, raised their children. They have rights too. I fortunately have several dogs in my house so I am alerted if anyone breaks in, but I have been hit twice. I've been called every name you could possibly call me. And I have been challenged and threatened with my life because I live in a ghetto. I deserve better and the people who live in that ghetto deserve better. I'm not so sure if this protocol is the right thing, but I can tell you this: we need better and healthier neighbourhoods.

From what I see the Community League is trying to do, it’s to try to change this status of being a ghetto and try to make it a viable community, and that has to come from the help from downtown. You have to know how we live. I do have a spare room if any of you would like to come and move in for a couple weeks to see it for the real stuff. I would be more than happy to have you. You can answer my front door; you can walk in the parks; and be called names that you cannot believe.

We also have a problem of human waste. At one time I picked up 5 piles of human waste out of the rink, sorry, so that kids would have a place to play. We don't have a lot of kids anymore because the schools are closing, but we still have kids who have rights. They have a right to have a park. They have a right to have a place to play. And I have to continue fighting doing it myself, as well as run my very large congregation. I thank you. And I know that with the wisdom of this council, I know that Mayor Stephen is a wise man, and I know we can work something out, and it doesn't have to be bureaucratic. It can simply be human beings living together with equal rights because we are all human beings. Thanks.

Rob Stack's Presentation to the City's Executive Committee, April 21

Presentation for Executive Committee April 21, 2010. Rob Stack McCauley Community League.

Thank you, once again, for the opportunity to speak on this important issue.
Back in my research days we talked of elegant solutions to problems. Solutions that are effective, efficient, constructive, and almost always shockingly simple. We have one of those solutions in front of us but we may be too busy “processing” to focus on potential outcomes.

The elegant option is a regulated moratorium. Akin to Option 3 in the discussion paper. Effectively not adding more non-market housing to “High Threshold” neighbourhoods. The only significant exceptions being major Council-driven initiatives. Recognize that this is threshold based; this barrier would disappear when the indicators change.

Regulatory firmness would create an instant base on which positive action could be built. Unlike an “incentive” approach no new consultative bodies need be created, no new pressures are placed on distressed neighbourhoods, nothing needs to be created to move forward, it involves no expenditures on incentives that may miss the mark.
Vulnerable neighbourhoods, currently the path of least resistance, instantly are simply not under consideration. The inertia and huge machinery focusing non-market initiatives on these areas are redirected. Our neighbourhoods can then work towards better integrating existing developments and creating a great future.

For developers, both market and non-market, a regulated policy provides the clarity and certainty that they require.

Option 3 offers a huge advantage because it forces the issue. The playing field is instantly changed. NM developers would be forced to work with healthy communities towards a common goal. Today, resident concern is automatically given the label NIMBY and degraded. Everyone has the right to be concerned and we should never be sanctioning the use of name calling and other heavy handed tactics. These concerns are legitimate and a real dialogue with empowered communities will create not just better educated residents but better performing housing/service operators.

Apparently a major concern with option 3 is that it could rob us of the miracle housing project or projects that would fix urban poverty, stimulate development, and end urban crime. This is a romantic fallacy and a proven failure. Concentrating poverty is wrong and concentrating NMH concentrates poverty and/or institutionalizes residential areas -- end of story. The solutions we are looking for lie in integrated communities, and the elimination of areas of disadvantage and marginalization.

The concept of injecting market housing into troubled areas using NMH is equally flawed. Mixed residential can work (and work well) but it is dependent on locations of high market demand. It is the highly desirable location that is the known lever to entice dispersion and integration using mixed projects. It is backwards to think that NMH is a tool to leverage condo sales in the market.

The other problem with using NMH to fix problems of NMH concentration is that you are adding more of something to lower the concentration of that thing; this is simply circular logic.

What neighborhoods under extreme stress need is a moratorium. What the non-market development industry needs is a moratorium in the high threshold areas. No fancy footwork exemptions. We need this help, they need that guidance, we all need the certainty.

This would be a strong base to move forward from and I implore you to make this choice so that we can all move onto better things.

Sophy Yeung's Presentation to the Executive Committee, April 21

April 21, 2010 Executive Committee
10:30 am: 5.2 Non-Market Housing Ratios – Future Directions

Sophy Yeung, McCauley Community League, Communications Director

As Wendy has said, our community is clear about the need for a moratorium now.

What concerns me the most at this point, after all the energy we have put into this issue, is the extent of progress that this discussion is achieving.

I am most disappointed that the discussion is centering on why a simple STOP is too much to ask for in the extremely distressed neighbourhoods.

Please let’s regain some perspective.

We are talking about stopping the building of any more subsidized housing in, really, only a very small fraction of the nearly 300 neighbourhoods that are within city limits. What is the big worry about having a dozen neighbourhoods be just off-limits? There would still be hundreds of other neighbourhoods. After all, it is well acknowledged that given choice, people overwhelmingly do not choose housing in the inner city. ...not to mention the dignity that comes with choice.

I urge you to keep in mind that the reason these neighbourhoods have been identified is because they have reached the tipping point of extreme neighbourhood poverty rates, a well known symptom of ill-health and dysfunction.

So, given this, why we continue to sponsor projects that contribute to the increase in the spatial concentration of poverty, specifically in neighbourhoods identified as already in a deep imbalance?

Why take the risk? ...a big risk.

What is there to lose by simply stopping?

Rather, I see there is only a very impressive list of things to gain, with pretty much nothing to risk.

The funding is still there.

The funding can now be even more powerfully leveraged by tapping into the strengths of our communities..... the strength of our healthy communities to welcome those in need and to be a very real contributor to their recovery and integration. Continuing to marginalize those in need is not helpful for anyone and is a tragedy of human endeavour. In a healthy neighbourhood, everyone (at all stages of life, from all walks of life) can thrive. Why not maximize the leveraging of tax dollars in the endeavour to get people out of the trap of poverty?

Only with a firm moratorium can all these benefits be had. The real risk is to leave in the loopholes.... which won’t realize a change in the inertia. Fool ourselves into thinking we’ve done something. Then watch everyone’s disappointment once the promise wears thin. Ironically what is being sold as the “safe” thing to do, is exactly the most dangerous thing to do.

Without a simple policy, how do we make sure we’re continuing to move the bar up higher? How do we make sure proposals are good enough to be accepted in any neighbourhood? Instead of depending on neighbourhoods that can’t complain. That’s just not going to be good enough anymore. It needs to have some connection to outcomes, to community integration, to the bigger picture.

Without a tangible policy that shows you will not knowingly concentrate poverty, how can you with credibility ask for the trust of all the neighbourhoods across the city?

Finally, I ask how is a regulated moratorium in the worst neighbourhoods not a beautiful, confident first step in this direction towards diverse inclusive neighbourhoods across the city? It can be this simple. Can you think of a better way to begin? This is easy, cheap, right and effective.

To move forward, we don’t need a policy that is complex. Before deciding to move ahead, we don’t need to figure out how to frame a policy that can fix every social problem, as measured by poverty .... an exercise that would have to involve more than just the Housing Branch. And, honestly, we don’t have the time. McCauley cannot take anymore. We cannot continue like this. We need this just so that we can take a breather. Then, we have the opportunity to plan beyond this.

I do not buy into the fear mongering that is suggesting McCauley is not a beautiful neighbourhood. That we are somehow blighted and will never amount to anything. That we cannot flourish. That families won’t want to come raise their children in our old houses. That we are addicted to charity. That we cannot attract quality investment. That we are better off as an institutionalized neighbourhood. That people cannot fall in love with us the way we are. But, the government needs to take the first step by demonstrating for everyone to see that you believe too.

Wendy Aasen's Speech to the Executive Committee, April 21

Presentation at Executive Committee April 21, 2010
by Wendy Aasen, President of McCauley Community League

I come to you today from “the extremely distressed neighbourhood” of McCauley. We have:
• an individual poverty rate of 44%,
• subsidizing housing units comprising 54% of our community,
• a family poverty rate of 24%,
• 660 shelter mats/emergency accommodations,
• and feeding programs that are feeding 150 thousand individuals a year. (Some of these are very worthy things to have and of course the need is huge.)

We’re now facing the point where our school is closed.

For McCauley, it’s a very, very big demographic issue. I’ve lived in the community 17 years and have watched the changes in demographics over time. It’s now 2 males for every 1 female. Very few children under the age of 14. And similar issues that are causing us to be an unhealthy community.

I want to say thank the Executive Committee for hearing us today. I also want to thank the City of Edmonton Housing Branch for working hard to put this discussion paper together. We are excited and pleased by many of the issues that are now being recognized:
• that concentrating poverty “produces aggregate community effects” (p.1),
• that “the mandates of the key stakeholders that provide non-market housing are not always in sync” (p.3), “that current funding models for non-market housing need to be reconsidered” (p. 5),
• and that strategies must be put in place to align Provincial, Regional and Municipal housing plans.

Particularly encouraging is the outcome (p. 7) of creating Quality, Vibrant, Inclusive communities for all. (And that makes me smile.) So for those reasons alone, I think and in my personal opinion, this is a huge first step, and we’re very pleased.

Last month, the community of McCauley came together at a General Meeting (a meeting that was extremely well attended by McCauley standards) to ensure that our League Executive was accurately reflecting the desires of our community. We advertised the meeting in the Boyle McCauley News, we conducted flyer drops, sent e-mails, and went door to door particularly focusing on south McCauley where our greatest challenges lie.

We had our General Meeting, had a secret ballot and 87% of our community voted to support a moratorium on the continued expansion of non-market housing. 99% of attendees showed their support for moving forward towards the development of a mixed healthy community - a community of choice. Almost unanimously our door to door visits revealed that residents, no matter what their socioeconomic status (and with rates like ours, at least 54% of people were of lower socioeconomic status), had all had enough of the status quo and were looking forward to real positive change. So we as a community are ready to move forward.

Picking and choosing, however, is part of the problem that we have with a flexible cap. How do you decide? How would any community decide what would be acceptable projects and what would not be acceptable projects in their community? We don’t see this as a desirable thing to do and our community will not choose between various needy groups.

So for that reason, again, our community will seek the most restrictive option presented in the discussion: the regulatory option with the hard cap.

At present, we are still potentially facing 6 new housing projects. Some are very large. We would like something to be done to put these projects on hold at least for a while so that we could have some breathing space, if or when this work moves forward. Thank you.