June 14th, 2024

LHA funding request coming before council

By Lethbridge Herald on June 11, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Construction is underway at the Lethbridge Housing Association supportive housing project on Stafford Drive North.

Al Beeber

Financial assistance  for a supportive housing project being built by the Lethbridge Housing Authority will be addressed this afternoon when city council meets at 12:30 p.m..

An official business motion by councillor Rajko Dodic is calling upon council to provide LHA with $1,050,000 from the Affordable and Social Housing Capital Grant for the project at 416 Stafford Drive North conditional upon the inclusion of key project features and the execution by LHA and the City of Lethbridge of an agreement satisfactory to the City Manager.

Those features include security fencing, a dedicated outdoor space, commercial kitchen, and dedicated space for future inclusion of medical and pharmaceutical facilities.

There is currently $2,714137 in grant funds available to support social and affordable housing projects, says Dodic’s motion.

The LHA has an agreement with the province to build the supportive housing project, with a funding commitment of $10,226,000 for 25 units. Last May, the City approved zoning which would allow 30 units to be built at the project site, the total cost of the project estimated by LHA to be $11,276,000.

The motion states that funding from the grant had previously supported other organizations providing social housing at an average of $35,000 per unit.

LHA is seeking the funding to successfully implement all planned features in the project, the request amounting to about seven per cent of the project cost.

“416 Stafford Drive is designed to implement key features and infrastructure that are crucial for promoting safety and wellness within our community. Failure to obtain this request could potentially be at the cost of these very features – additional security fencing and the roof top deck. Each of these components have been carefully selected to create an environment that fosters a sense of security and well-being amongst our residents and the surrounding community,” wrote LHA CAO Robin James to Housing Solutions Co-ordinator Matthew Pitcher of Community Social Development.

“Supportive housing moves individuals who have experienced long-term homelessness into affordable, individual suites, with on-site and community-based services to help them regain stability and maintain housing. 

“Once housed, they are better able to address other challenges they face, including long term recovery from addictions and mental or physical illnesses. 

“On-going data shows that this cost effective approach works to keep people housed and over time, improving their physical and mental health and sobriety,” her letter states.

“Estimates show that the average cost per person for emergency services before supportive housing is more than $67,000 per year, and that supportive housing results in reducing these costs by approximately $40,000. 416 Stafford Drive will be home to 30 individuals based on need and complexity.”

“This is a planned, long-term investment into recovery orientated, affordable housing in Lethbridge. Residents will be selected on need and acuity, with a focus on reducing the number of seniors currently calling the Lethbridge Shelter home. This will also be a positive step for those transitioning from treatment programs into stable housing rather than back to the streets and perpetuating the cycle of addiction,” wrote James.

Ground was broken in early March. James recently told the Economic and Finance Standing Policy Committee of city council that the the scope of the project was increased to 30 units from 25.

The project is the first of its kind to be built in the city.

It “is intended to be recovery focused, in alignment with the provincial movement towards a recovery-oriented system of care,” says a snapshot of the project. 

“The development of the facility has been well thought out to best cater to future residents’ needs. Individual suites will provide privacy and appropriate accommodations to residents. Development of the facility is planned to include wellness and safety related features including a dedicated outdoor space, commercial kitchen, security fencing and space for pharmaceutical and medical facilities. Site specific costs, including the need to complete lane paving, fire hydrant installation and geo-technical considerations, have created some added budget pressures.”

“Supportive housing has been identified as a key gap within Lethbridge and this need has been highlighted in the Municipal Housing Strategy and the Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy, both of which are currently in the process of being renewed,” says the snapshot.

The Blood Tribe Department of Health has written a letter in support of the project stating  it “recognizes the significant impact that stable housing and comprehensive support can have on individual health outcomes, as well as public health outcomes and community resilience.

“We firmly  believe that initiatives like the one being built by LHA are essential components of a holistic approach to addressing homelessness and improving the overall health and wellbeing of our unhoused population,” wrote Derrick Fox, CEO of the BTDH.

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