May 23rd, 2024

Housing providers see increase in budget


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on April 17, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge Housing Authority is among 48 Alberta providers of community housing that is seeing an increase in its operating budget this year.

The province on Tuesday announced it was committing an increase of $21 million in operating funding, bringing the total for 2024-25 to $75 million.

The funding, says the province, will keep community housing units open and also will help to cover day-to-day expenses for such things as utilities and staffing.

For the LHA, the budget hike means about a 40 per cent increase to its operating budget.

Under Alberta regulations, housing providers can charge tenants rent equivalent to 30 per cent of their income with a minimum cost of $128.

The housing providers pay for heat while tenants pay for electricity. James said the budget increase impacts 676 units in the LHA portfolio.

“It’s going to help significantly,” said LHA CAO Robin James Tuesday after the provincial announcement.

Housing providers are feeling the same pressures as residents. As an example, they pay carbon tax but don’t get a rebate.

Under the Alberta Housing Act, housing management bodies pay 100 per cent of the heating for their clients. The tenants actually get the carbon rebate while not actually paying for the cost of their heating while living in government housing, said James.

The minimum rent on government housing unit is $128 a month.

“It’s significantly low,” said James. So if a person is living off a child tax benefit or child support for example, the tenant would pay minimum rent.

“Given the cost pressures of the increase in carbon tax, increase in basically everything, you can see how as a housing provider we really can’t afford to not have an increase at this point so it’s been really good to see,” said James.

The housing act doesn’t allow housing providers to pass on the costs of such things as garbage, recycling, sewer and water to tenants.

LHA hasn’t seen an increase for a few years and James says the increase was long overdue.

More than 110,000 Alberta residents presently live in more than 60,000 government-subsidized homes and the province says demand is growing.

The province defines community housing as “mix of single-family homes, apartments and townhomes, where the rent is based on 30 per cent of household income. Currently, this program prioritizes low-income households with dependents and less than $25,000 in assets.”

In a statement released by the province, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon stated “housing providers are the backbone of Alberta’s affordable housing system, and our government is firmly in their corner. More people are coming to our province than ever before, and through Budget 2024 we are helping to ensure low-income individuals and families can have a safe place to call home.”

The size of local housing providers and their number of units was taken into account by the province when determining budget allocations, the government said in a release. All providers saw an increase in their budget

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