Surplus school sites to be turned into affordable housing

‘Perceived park land’ wanted by city for affordable housing

Fields that at one time were being saved for school sites are now being considered as locations for affordable housing, says the city of Edmonton.

The shift in planning comes at a time when the city is scrambling to find more places to build housing with lower rents.

Still, it’s not the kind of growth that those who live next to the fields wanted or expected, said Josephine van Lier, who lives in Henderson Estates in the city’s southwest.

Lier is at home most days. She’s a cellist who teaches and practices in a room renovated to include big windows that overlooks the field in question.

“We’ve got this fantastic view over the park so it’s a very inspirational place to overlook.”

Lier said she understands the need for more affordable housing in the city but said the need for green space also needs to be factored into the city’s decision.

“I mean obviously it’s very selfish of me to say I like the view, and let’s keep the view,” she said.

“But this park is so much a part of the community, it’s a community green space.

“You’ll see teenage boys kicking balls around out there, little kids flying kites or playing in the park. But also the people who live here, gather there and talk to each other in the park.”

The problem is the park as Lier knows it isn’t actually a park.

“There is going to be some loss of what is perceived as park land,” said Jay Freeman, the city’s executive director of housing and homelessness.

Neighbourhoods affected

Ogilvie Ridge

Keheewin

Kiniski Gardens

Belmont

Dunluce

Henderson Estates

La Perle

Lymburn

Summerlea

He’s adamant that sites for those who can’t afford higher rents need to be spread throughout the city.

“I think it’s to everybody’s advantage to have those housing choices throughout the community,” he said, adding that additional housing is needed for single-parent households or those working in the service industry.

“If you’re working full time and you’re a server at a restaurant you can’t afford an apartment in Edmonton,” said Freeman.

Mayor Don Iveson said earlier this week the demand for affordable housing is too high to simply leave the fields as they are.

“We are doing a lot of community engagement in order to help people understand the history of that land in that the surrounding part was always intended to have something built on it,” said Iveson

In total, there are nine sites — all of which are now fields or green spaces in the neighbourhoods where they’re located.

Freeman said the city will meet with people living in the affected neighbourhoods before converting their green spaces into housing space.

[CBC]

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