Affordable Housing Brian Heidecker Carl Amrhein Indira Samarasekera Sol Rolingher Tuition University of Alberta

live-blogging/freezing against the fees.

7:48am – I’m standing outside University Hall at the University of Alberta with over 500 students who got up early to protest tuition and residence fee increases. It’s freezing cold outside, so it’s really great to see so many people out facing the cold and being active citizens!

8:00am – I’m now sitting in University Hall and there’s a nervous tension in the air. The Board of Governors are sitting, preparing for their meeting while the chants of “access now!” are coming from just outside room.

8:03am – The meeting has begun and I’m thinking this might be painful to live-blog. The Board Chair Brian Heidecker is now talking about agenda items. I think he might rival Premier Ed Stelmach for charisma.

8:06am – Chairman Heidecker is now praising Barack Obama.

8:16am – Not sure who the Governors of Alberta’s largest public post-secondary institution are? Here’s a list:

William Cheung
, Gordon Clanachan, Marc de La Bruyère, Brian Heidecker, John Hoddinott, J.D. Hole, Agnes Hoveland, Linda Hughes, Michael Janz, Don Matthew, Janelle Morin, Jay Nagendran, George Pavlich, Gerard Protti, Sol Rolingher, Oliver Rossier, Indira Samarasekera, Bruce Saville, Don Sieben, Ben Whynot, Dick Wilson

4 women, 17 men. Pretty reflective of the Alberta’s population, student population, etc, etc, etc…

8:21am – President Samarasekera is now talking about India and CANDU nuclear reactors. Here’s an interesting read on that topic (h/t @AB_get_rich).

8:25am – Holy Web 2.0, Batman! Governor Michael Janz is tweeting from the meeting.

8:32am – Provost Carl Amrhein is about to start their presentation to justify this year’s tuition hike. Amrhein takes the time to preemptively call the student position ‘inaccurate‘ before starting his presentation.

8:37am – I’m curious how many people in this room find themselves in this category?

8:44am – University VP Finance Phyllis Clark is presenting the ‘institutional budget risks.’ Just about as exciting as it sounds.

8:49am – GSA President Ben Whynot is schooling the Board Members on the responsibility of Governors towards the institution while starting the presentation from Graduate Students. “Dissatisfaction with current investments” includes funding disparities across departments, hefty differential fees for international students, & lack of access to childcare for graduate students. U of A Graduate students accessing childcare pay an average of +$700 per month (it may be just me, but that sounds like a lot!)

9:02am – Thinking about how difficult it must be for Governors to actually wade through the positions of the administration and the students. How do you tell what is reality and what is positioning and agendas?

9:08amStudents’ Union President Janelle Morin is beginning her presentation. Commenting on students’ role on the board. “My obligation to highlight one area where the University is falling short” “gaps between students school costs and their expected revenue flow” “tuition is poised to pass $5,000 this year

9:15am – Morin: Average accumulated debt for a U of A undergraduate student is $23,000. Over half of undergraduate students graduate with debt.

9:18am – Morin: Average earnings of an Albertan with a Bachelors Degree: Men: $70,000; Women $54,000.

Students’ Union summary: improve access, improve quality.

9:21am – Heidecker has opened the floor to questions and observations from the Administration and the Board members on the three presentations. Having been to this kind of meeting in previous years, I know the kind of gold mine for quotes this can be. Let’s go!

Provost Amrhein – ‘Post-secondary education is a shared responsibility between the Government and the people.’ Shouldn’t the Government be the people?

9:28am – Calling this meeting frustrating would be an understatement. Can someone convince me to run to become the Students’ Union Board of Governors Representative? They’re all wearing nice suits. Maybe I’d be able to get a nice suit too? I don’t think I’d wear a suit. This board needs less ‘suits.’

9:31am – Governor Sol Rolingher:I made the decision to have a child while in University. It happened. I don’t know why.” Rolingher then went on to explain that ‘it is a herculean task to overcome financial deprivation, but it’s part of being on campus and learning.’ (rough quote). Keep in mind that he said this while wearing a very very nice business suit. Doesn’t it make you feel better that this public board is filled with men of the people like Rolingher?

9:43am – Provost Amhrein: The tuition increase covers salaries and benefits.

From Maclean’s:

According to the University of Alberta’s fiscal statements for year ended March 31, 2007, U of A president Indira Samarasekera was paid $591,000 in salary and benefits. Her Number Two, provost Carl Amrhein, earned even more: $599,000.

9:48am4.1% tuition increase passed. 17-3. Barely any debate from the Public Members of the Board. Alumni Representatives Dick Wilson and William Cheung voted for the increase. In 2008, Alumni Rep Ruth Kelly took a stand and voted against the increase.

10:15am – The presentations regarding residence rent increases are done. Good presentations all around. The University is still dealing with massive deferred maintenance costs caused by the cutbacks in the 1990s. Students are facing a 8% increase, giving students a 30%/$1000 increase since 2006 = $220 per month increase since 2006.

10:30am – Governor Michael Janzthe policy of student housing by our provincial government is unfortunate” “concerned that we are pricing students out” “original 6.4% increase in 2006 was supposed to be an emergency deferred maintenance cost. We are facing so much deferred maintenance costs that I’m afraid we’ll continue putting the cost onto students” “I’m concerned that this is contributing to an unsustainable levels of costs that we’re putting on students.

10:32am – The meeting is still going. Call me a cynic, but I’m going to assume that the rent increase will pass with about the same amount of debate and similar vote tally as the tuition vote. Two and a half hours after the meeting began, life calls and I must depart. Thanks for tuning in!

Affordable Housing Ray Danyluk

danyluk flees alberta.

As the affordable housing crisis rages across Alberta, Tory Minister Ray Danyluk is traveling to New York to “investigate innovative programs to address homelessness and housing.

Now I wouldn’t have had a problem with Danyluk traveling to New York had he not appointed an Affordable Housing Task Force to study and hold hearings on this issue across Alberta (which they did quite sucessfully).

The Affordable Housing Task Force, which delivered its final report to Danyluk in March 2007, contains many innovative ideas that have since been largely ignored by the Stelmach Tories.

And even if the Tories didn’t like the Task Force’s Final Report, there’s no shortage of innovative ideas floating around Alberta to look at.
Affordable Housing University of Alberta

i support affordable student housing.

The Graduate Students’ Association at the University of Alberta has taken the initiative and started a public campaign – I Support Affordable Student Housing – calling for solutions to solve the student end of the affordable housing crisis in Edmonton.

The campaign website also provides a list of options for students still looking for affordable housing with September fast approaching.

Affordable Housing Alberta Tories

warnings have been issued!

I thought this was a pretty smart ad on Alberta’s affordable housing crisis and the provincial Tory government’s lack of action on the issue. Credit goes to Dave Sawchuk and Q99 FM Radio in Grande Prairie for doing this one up.

Props to the daveberta reader who sent this my way.

Affordable Housing

homelessness on the radar.

The Canada West Foundation released a new survey on urban issues this morning…

The Looking West 2007 Survey finds that the majority of urbanites in western Canada and Toronto rate reducing homelessness as a high priority, and that they tend to favour increased affordable housing and increased programs and services for homeless people over an increase in shelter beds as a solution to homelessness. In addition, the survey finds that many urbanites feel that governments are doing a poor job addressing urban social issues such as poverty.

According to the survey, 68.8% of Edmontonians and 66.9% of Calgarians surveyed identified “reducing homelessness” as a ‘very high priority’ or ‘high priority.’ The survey also showed that only 17.6% of Edmontonians and 23.4% of Calgarians surveyed believed that governments were doing a ‘good job’ or ‘very good job’ addressing social issues (38.4% of Edmontonians and 34.9% of Calgarians surveyed believed that governments were doing a ‘poor job’ or ‘very poor job’ at addressing this issue).

Though I’m still fairly skeptical of surveys and polls, I do find these numbers quite interesting. With the affordable housing in Alberta becoming harder to find, I can only see this issue becoming more important in the future.

Read the survey here

Affordable Housing Alberta Liberals Kevin Taft

kevin taft on affordable housing.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft on Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing Alberta Tories

alberta’s housing crisis continues to explode.

As Alberta’s affordable housing crisis continues to explode, a new poll has been released by the Calgary Herald detailing Albertans attitudes towards rent control:

Big city support for rent control

A new poll finds that a majority of Albertans in the province’s two largest cities overwhelmingly support rent controls, which have been rejected by the Tory government.

An Ipsos-Reid survey provided exclusively to the Herald Monday found 78 per cent of home owners and 92 per cent of renters in Calgary and Edmonton support having government limits to rent increases.

“Some landlords are gouging and that’s not fair,” said Calgarian Daniel Johnson, 60, who recently received notice that rent for his one bedroom apartment is jumping to $1,075 from $575. He said although he understands that there needs to be moderate housing price increases, he strongly supports rent controls.

Renters are citizens just like everybody else and they are afforded no rights under the current system,” said Johnson, who is working to establish a tenants group in Calgary. “If there was balance throughout it would be better.

Don Braid hits it right on the mark in his article in today’s Herald:

The Tories have 19 MLAs from Calgary, one-third of their entire majority.

Theoretically, the government should be well-informed about what’s going on in the city, and how people are feeling.

Too often, though, MLAs who pass on the gritty news from the inner city are ignored. The ones who win a happy reception are more ideological Tories who say what the inner circle wants to hear.

Renters and homeowners are not feeling so ideological. They want a solution to the rent crisis.

Affordable Housing Alberta Tories

losing a fight.

Alberta’s Tories are holding their annual convention in Edmonton this weekend and I’m sure it will be less exiciting than last year’s convention.

As the Tory convention is going on in Edmonton, the waves of discontent continue to spill out on to the front pages of the Calgary dailies as Mayor Dave Bronconnier continues his massive assault on the rural-based Tory government of Premier Ed Stelmach. On the affordable housing issue, I think Bronconnier is clearly in the right. This is a province-wide issue that requires provincial leadership, not scattered municipal projects.

Graham Thomson has some interesting commentary on how Stelmach has shot himself in the foot over the affordable housing issue:

But then some Calgary journalists began poking at Stelmach. Why was he so upset with the story of one Edmonton woman? Didn’t he realize Calgary tenants have been hit by huge rent increases for months?

That’s when Stelmach unwittingly unholstered the gun and took aim at himself.

“I wasn’t aware of anybody getting a $1,000 increase,” he said. Bang.

The Calgary journalists were gobsmacked. They have been writing stories about Calgarians being hit by $1,000 rent increases since last August. There have been so many of those stories that journalists have stopped reporting on them and have moved on to heartbreaking tales of tenants being gouged by $2,000 a month rent hikes.

And here’s Stelmach saying he’s not aware of what’s going on in Alberta’s largest city. He tried to look compassionate but ended up looking clueless.

If Calgarians thought the new premier was too much of a northerner before, they must be thinking he’s from Inuvik today.

This will only add to Stelmach’s troubles in Calgary. For weeks, he’s been hammered by Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier who feels betrayed by the new provincial budget. Bronconnier says there are so many strings attached to municipal grants the city is effectively hog- tied when it comes to spending money on necessary projects such as LRT expansions.

The Stelmach government, says Bronconnier, obviously doesn’t understand the city’s issues.

Bronconnier is wildly popular in Calgary. Stelmach is not.

Does this remind you of something?

Stelmach’s position on affordable housing was made even more confusing when he did a complete 180 on his government’s position on rent controls (See: May 3 and flip to May 5).

I don’t know about you, but all this tension will sure make the upcoming by-elections in Calgary Elbow and Drumheller-Stettler interesting and leaves the opportunity open for Kevin Taft’s Alberta Liberals to make more inroads into Calgary.

Affordable Housing Alberta Politics

thursday update.

A couple of things…

– I presented to Alberta’s Affordable Housing Task Force yesterday afternoon in Edmonton. The committee will be traveling Alberta to listen to Albertans thoughts and recommendations on how to solve the affordable housing crisis until February 28. Task force members include MLA’s Len Webber (Calgary Foothills), Bruce Miller (Edmonton Glenora), and Ray Martin (Edmonton Beverly-Clareview) and Edmonton City Councillor Karen Leibovici. See here for the hearing locations and dates.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft delivered an alternative Speech from the Throne Tuesday night at the Royal Museum in Edmonton. Fresh from the release of Taft’s new book Democracy Derailed, last nights event was a packed affair with hundereds of Albertans crowding the theatre to hear what Taft had to say. It was a positive speech and gave Taft the oppurtunity to present his team of MLA’s and candidates along with a positive vision for Alberta’s future. Taft also focused on the need for action to be taken on environmental issues in Alberta.

Though it will be an uphill battle for the 15 MLA caucus, Taft outlined the Alberta Liberal Caucus’ legislative agenda for the upcoming Spring Session which will include a number of Bills including a Sustainable Communities Act, a Consumer Advocate Act, a Child Care Accountability and Accessibility Act, a Restriction on School Fees and Fundraising Act, and legislation that would strengthen water resource management, review gaming in Alberta, require health impact assessments for major government initiatives, and reverse laws designed to hide the results of internal audits for 15 years.

It’s a very interesting twist in Alberta politics how the Alberta Liberals are attempting to turn the tables on the seemingly disorganized Stelmach Government in terms of presenting a strong and united vision for what road Alberta should take.

– Looks like Quebec is off to the polls on March 26.

– I’m off to the wild border city of Lloydminster for the day today (hopefully those rowdy Saskatchewanites won’t be too much of a worry).

Affordable Housing Alberta Liberals Alberta NDP Dave Taylor Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft

a house in alberta.

For many newly minted Albertans it’s fairly obvious that the affordability shortage/ridiculously high priced housing market here in Alberta is causing quite the challenge for many residents of Canada’s wealthiest nation. But what are folks to do?

Kevin Taft‘s Alberta Liberals have released a policy paper detailing their plans for an Affordable Housing Strategy. Calgary Currie MLA Dave Taylor, the Official Opposition Critic for Municipal Affairs, announced the Liberals policy paper this week. In brief, the Affordable Housing Strategy recommends:

changes to provincial regulations concerning secondary (e.g. basement) suites so that they can be quickly used as affordable housing units, while meeting strict provincial health and safety standards;
portable housing allowances and rent supplements for low-income and fixed-income Albertans;
giving cities and towns the authority to mandate percentages of affordable housing in new developments;
incentives to developers to build affordable rental units, and to make home ownership possible for more Albertans;
providing land through provincial donations and land swaps to make it more financially feasible for local groups to build new affordable housing;
enacting a Reasonable Rent Increase law to protect tenants from rent gouging.

You can also fill out an online survey.

The Alberta NDP have also released a point pamphlet on Affordable Housing and Poverty calling for the creation of a Ministry of Housing. On Affordable Housing, the NDP are advocating that this new Ministry:

* Build 6000 affordable housing units
* Pressure the federal government to increase funding
* Commit to helping municipalities meet targets

Soon-to-be-newly-minted-Premier-designate-of-Alberta Ed Stelmach released a two-paragraph statement on affordable housing for Albertans with Special Needs during the recent Alberta PC leadership campaign. It looks like Albertans will just have to wait and see where Premier-designate Stelmach stands on this issue.

UPDATE: Stelmach has four more paragraphs on homelessness.