Edmonton Minute: Homelessness Emergency, Extortion Scheme, and the Encampment Saga Continues
Edmonton Minute - Your weekly one-minute summary of Edmonton politics
This Week In Edmonton:
- This morning, at 9:30 am, there will be a meeting of the Community and Public Services Committee. On the agenda is the City’s updated Affordable Housing Strategy and a discussion about Turf and Horticulture Service levels. The Affordable Housing Strategy notes that Edmonton has almost 395,000 homes but less than 15,000 are social and affordable housing units. The City defines affordable as costing less than 30% of before-tax household income. Speaking of housing, later today, at 1:30 pm, there will be a Special City Council meeting. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called the meeting with the intention of declaring a homelessness emergency. (More on this below!)
On Tuesday, the Agenda Review Committee will meet at 8:30 am, followed by a meeting of the Urban Planning Committee at 9:30 am. The latter Committee will discuss further merging of paratransit and On Demand Transit services. The Committee will also discuss opportunities for closed, car-free, and shared streets in Downtown. There will also be another Special City Council meeting on Tuesday, at 10:00 am. Both agenda items - an intergovernmental update and a collective bargaining update - will be discussed in-camera.
- The Executive Committee will meet on Wednesday at 9:30 am. The Committee will discuss the Clean Energy Improvement Program Tax Bylaw. The proposed bylaw would make money available to building owners to make energy efficiency upgrades or add renewable energy installations to their properties. The financing would then be repaid by the property owner through property taxes. Edmonton ran a fully subscribed pilot project last year and is now looking to expand the project. The Committee will also consider the sale of the first two parcels of the Exhibition Lands to private developers. Finally, the Committee will consider the Al-Mustafa Academy and Humanitarian Society’s outstanding property tax balance.
Last Week In Edmonton:
- The encampment saga continued. As police and the City moved in to dismantle the last of eight encampments deemed “high-risk”, they were met with resistance from residents and activists, resulting in a standoff. Later on, Edmonton police arrested three people for obstructing the cleanup. While cleaning up one of the encampments, police found 10 samurai swords, 11 machetes, 34 assorted knives, two axes, brass knuckles, a collapsible baton, and a pellet gun. Now that the cleanup has finished, several Councillors have questions about how the situation was handled and have said they will be posing these questions to Administration at a special meeting of Council, set for this afternoon. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called the special meeting and at it, he intends to declare a homelessness emergency.
- Alberta Housing Minister Jason Nixon criticized Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's call to declare a homelessness emergency, labeling it a political move without impact. Nixon also announced $10 million in increased funding for housing providers with government-subsidized housing units. He dismissed Sohi's proposal for a special council meeting and joint discussions with federal and Indigenous leaders as a "stunt", as the governments have already been having regular meetings for weeks.
- More homes were destroyed as a result of deliberately set fires. In one case, the fire spread and damaged nine neighbouring homes, including some occupied ones. These fires are allegedly part of an extortion scheme, whereby members of the South Asian community are being targeted with extortion demands, and should they not pay, their house is burned to the ground. At least nine fires since November 2023 are being investigated as part of this extortion scheme.
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