Big Lakes wants grants-in-lieu of taxes for social housing

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County wants the provincial government to return grants-in-lieu of taxes for public housing.
At its regular meeting Aug. 9, council approved a resolution that was further presented to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) zone meeting on Aug. 12.
Grouard Councillor Jeff Chalifoux asked how grants-in-lieu impacts the county.
About $6,500 annually, says Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.
South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart says grants-in-lieu affects the Town of High Prairie more than the county.
“They’re desperate for it,” Stewart says.
The provincial government, as part of its 2015 budget, eliminated grants for property taxes paid to housing management authorities to cover property tax assessment, Panasiuk states in a report.
“Restoring grants-in-lieu of taxes will help pay for social housing units and help incentivize to build more housing if grants will come municipalities’ way,” CAO Jordan Panasiuk says.
“Municipalities still feel that the provincial government is reneging on its obligation to pay a grant in lieu of taxes on government-owned and government-supported social housing.”
Big Lakes passed a resolution that the RMA urge the provincial government to re-instate grants-in-lieu of taxes for housing operated by public housing management bodies.
The resolution also presents another option that the RMA find a new way to assist modest income earners that does not punish the municipality for having social housing by increasing funding towards the
Private Landlord Rent Supplement Program, the Direct Rent Supplement Program or increased support for Indigenous communities to get more family housing.
Affordable housing is an issue that Alberta municipalities have long championed as it is essential to building vibrant, sustainable, inclusive communities, Panasiuk says in his report.
“Since 2015, about $128 million in costs have been absorbed by municipalities who are already stressed to address infrastructure deficits in part due to downloading responsibilities from federal and provincial funding.
“This decision has forced municipalities to reduce critical municipal services or increase taxes for other property owners in order to make up the shortfall.”
Funding reductions impact nearly 23,000 units owned by the Alberta Social Housing Corporation and more than 2,200 units owned by municipalities.
“The loss of these grants then disincentivizes social housing because of the increased costs at the time when public housing is needed most,” Panasiuk says.
Since 2015, municipalities have lost about 16 million each year in municipal revenues that municipalities have had to make up by increasing property taxes from an already-strained property tax system just to maintain current service levels.

Share this post