Nenshi encouraged by federal commitment to address homelessness, public transit

CALGARY — In his reaction to the federal government’s throne speech Wednesday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi claimed chronic homelessness in Calgary could potentially be brought to an end “within two years.”

Nenshi called affordable housing the most important takeaway from Ottawa’s announcement, but says the only way to reach such a goal would be if all levels of government came to an agreement. 

“If the federal and provincial governments are willing to come to the table with us, then let’s use this opportunity and make real change for a lot of people,” Nenshi said. 

“This is huge because we have had the Homeless First and Chronic Homeless strategy in place for 15 years across the country, but to have the feds actually say that we are going to end chronic homelessness is a massive policy step.”

Trudeau’s Liberals made a similar commitment in 2017, announcing plans to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent. 

In her speech from the throne, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette noted that the feds have already helped “more than a million people” get a safe and affordable place to call home. 

“Given the progress that has been made, and our commitment to do more, the government is now focussed on entirely eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada,” said Payette.

According to the City of Calgary, there is currently a large shortage of affordable housing as the city has been developing an average of 308 new units every year since 2011. 

City data shows that the only way to offset the shortage with Calgary’s growing population is to create anywhere between 2,000 and 2,500 new units each year. 

Nenshi touts the federal government’s plan to invest $1 billion for cities to buy motels and hotels for rapid housing projects, but says more still needs to be done. 

The mayor also reflected on the government’s commitment to further infrastructure spending, adding that he is pleased with investments to retrofit existing buildings. build roads bridges, and general maintenance to keep Calgary’s assets in good repair. 

He was also optimistic regarding investment in public transit. 

“There was some powerful language in the throne speech around some of the investments that had been promised by the Liberal government in transit so I am excited in moving forward and making sure. in addition to the Green Line, we’re building our transit for people across the country.”

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