Friday, May 14, 2010

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.

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