So far so good, says housing authority manager

COVID clear at the seniors’ lodge

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

When it comes to public housing, the news is mixed, but one big good news item outweighs everything else. No cases of COVID-19 in the seniors’ lodge in Slave Lake.

It comes at a cost. Visitors aren’t allowed. Staff members, who have to go in and out, have to be ultra careful about who they come in contact with outside of the lodge, and in what circumstances.

“We’ve been really lucky,” says Lyndsay Pratt, CEO of the Slave Lake Regional Housing Authority. “It’s dodging a bullet. It could happen so fast.”

But so far, so good, and that applies to all four of the lodges Pratt oversees, as (also) CEO of the Heart River Housing Authority.

On the other hand, vacancies are up and that’s something management has to address. People are leery about moving in during a pandemic, for one thing. For another, Pratt says, there’s a notion some people have about giving up freedom and independence. Fair enough, he says, but it’s also worth considering that for a lot of people, lodge living is a much healthier situation. Better food, more activities, more chance for socializing.

“People look out for each other,” he says. For some, having come from relative isolation at home, “it’s a new lease on life.”

New build?

Asked about the proposed affordable housing project for Slave Lake, Pratt, says it’s not dead, but a way forward is yet to be found. All the options looked at so far have been too expensive. This includes some public-private partnership ideas, which is what the new government favours. A couple of those, he says, were “not close to being feasible.”

What happens next, Pratt says is “We’re going to continue to explore opportunities for partnerships,” but “from our perspective, we’re not close to building.”

Background

The need for new affordable housing was identified after the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire. Money was allocated – some provincial and some federal. Different ideas were tossed around; the one settled on was that an apartment building, to replace some of the old, inefficient single-family units in the northwest part of Slave Lake would be the way to go. The federal money was contingent on the project having some sort of energy-efficiency component. However, as noted, every option explored came back costing more than there was to spend on it.

The Kenney government’s idea was that involving a private company as a partner would be a way to get it done. But according to Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman, what may work well in an urban setting doesn’t seem to add up on the smaller scale of the Slave Lake proposal. In other words, private companies, in it for profit at the end of the day, would charge too much.

Single family homes in this northeast Slave Lake neighbourhood are slated to be replaced by a multi-family building, but it has been delayed for several years.

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