July 15th, 2024

Council approves grant funding for LHA project

By Lethbridge Herald on June 12, 2024.

Al Beeber

Lethbridge city council on Tuesday unanimously approved an official business motion by councillor Rajko Dodic calling upon council to provide Lethbridge Housing Authority up to $1,050,000 from the Affordable and Social Housing Capital Grant for its 30-unit supportive housing 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.

Total cost of the project is estimated by LHA to be $11,276,000 with $10,226,000 being provided for the province.

Several organizations and individuals spoke to council on behalf of the LHA with numerous councillors voicing their support including John Middleton-Hope who told James before the vote she did “a superlative job” and she now had his support for the project.

Middleton-Hope initially grilled James on numerous aspects of the project, calling into question several elements of it.

James told council she hopes to come back in 72 weeks and tell the City’s governance the LHA doesn’t need the money which amounts to a nine per cent contingency of the project.

Among the key features are security fencing and a roof top deck which James told council is necessary to get vulnerable residents off street level and away from predators dealing drugs.

She told council the project was originally approved under the NDP government as a 42-bed facility with a $12 million budget pre-COVID. An architect and builder were chosen but the project collapsed and the LHA was approached by the UCP to build a 25-bed facility with the $10 million remaining of that money after the architect and builder were paid out. LHA said it believed 30 beds were possible but the need for for pilings at the site with a cost between $500,000 and $1 million were needed, which left the organization with $600,000 less in contingencies than expected.

Council heard that none of the 10 organizations that have previously sought funding from the grant had been turned down and the need for such supportive housing projects in Lethbridge is needed, a need that is likely to increase in the future.

Dodic reminded council how it had approved several projects in February of last year on the condition that matching provincial or federal funding also be acquired and noted that Lethbridge Housing had done things in reverse, acquiring provincial funding before approaching council.

“This is a good project,” Dodic told council, his sentiments echoed by his council colleagues and mayor Blaine Hyggen who all offered their support.

With approval of the project, there is still $1.7  million remaining in the Affordable and Social Housing Capital Grant for any other projects that may be brought forward.

Community Social Development general manager Andrew Malcolm told council during discussions his department’s recommendation would be to support the funding request.

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