Density, traffic concerns with proposed affordable housing plan for south Edmonton

Some residents in the south Edmonton neighbourhood of Keheewin are worried about traffic and children’s safety if a proposed affordable housing development is approved for their area.

The city is planning to build up to 182 housing units on an empty site next to Keheewin School, an elementary school at 1910 105th Street. The field next to the school was once intended for a junior high but was declared surplus in 2009.

“The density of [the design] is too high,” said Michele Fidyk, who lives across the street from the site. “Less dense and townhouses, I think that would be what our community had voted for in the first place.”

More than 100 people showed up at a public meeting Tuesday evening organized by the community. There were presentations as well as a question-and-answer session, which Fidyk said hadn’t been done at previous meetings.

Despite one individual voicing an opinion that the development should just “go away,” Fidyk said that does not represent the overall consensus of the community.

Housing density and traffic volumes on 23rd Avenue and 105th Street are the main concerns, she said.

“As far as subsidized housing, certainly our neighbourhood is very open to that. We just want it to be something that is more manageable within our community,” Fidyk said.

‘Communities love where they live’

Greg Dewling, CEO with Capital Region Housing, said the not-for-profit organization faces opposition in every community where it proposes developments.

“Communities love where they live, they’ve built it, some have lived there for decades. So when we go into those communities, there’s a passion about what’s going to happen there,” Dewling said.

The city is proposing to build up to 182 housing units on a surplus school site next to Keheewin School in south Edmonton. (Tricia Kindleman/CBC)

The organization will work with Stantec, developers of the design, to “try to meet some of the expectations of the community” while keeping in mind the needs of the families the organization serves, he said.

There are 6,000 families on a waiting list for affordable housing, Dewling said.

“It’s balancing the needs of the community, what we bring as a value-add to that community, as well as all the families that we serve,” he said.

The questions raised at the meeting have been asked and answered over a very long public engagement process, said Coun. Michael Walters, who attended the Tuesday evening meeting.

“Maybe the fact they’re being asked over and over means we haven’t done a good enough job providing the right amount of detail yet, I think, as it relates to what effect development will have on the school and school traffic,” Walters said. 

While this development may seem like a large project to the people in the area “it’s kind of a drop in the bucket from a traffic perspective,” Walters said.

The city has to weigh the housing needs that Capital Region Housing is trying to fulfil, against the challenges being raised by the community, he said.

The proposal will now go back to the city as part of the rezoning application process.

Next week, councillors will discuss a new report that will look at lifting a moratorium on affordable housing in five core neighbourhoods.

In 2012, the city put a “pause” on non-market housing in the communities of Alberta Avenue, Central McDougall, Eastwood, McCauley and Queen Mary Park. Those neighbourhoods had spent years advocating for something to be done about the high concentration of poverty in their communities.

The report, which recommends ending that moratorium, will be discussed at city council’s executive committee meeting on June 10.

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