WESTLOCK – The Town of Westlock has opened a dialogue with Homeland Housing to gauge that organization’s interest in taking over Westlock Place, the town-run 24-suite affordable housing apartment complex.
Both town CAO Simone Wiley and mayor Ralph Leriger, who also sits on the Homeland Housing board of directors, said initial talks have started between the two organizations — Wiley noted the town and Homeland had previously discussed Westlock Place during former CAO Dean Krause’s tenure, but talks stalled.
“The town and Homeland Housing have been in discussions regarding Westlock Place, but we’re not anywhere to a point yet of having a plan, if you will, in place. We are working together to see if there is a good fit there for Homeland and Westlock Place,” said Wiley, adding they’re currently providing Homeland more information, while Homeland has scheduled an inspection of the complex.
Added Leriger: “Since housing is their business we simply asked ourselves the question, is this maybe a better fit for them to be doing it? The community needs the facility and we need to operate it successfully, but housing is their wheelhouse. We’ve asked administration to explore if there were any opportunities with Homeland Housing and see what they are.”
The $5.1 million Westlock Place opened in 2009 and caters to low-to-medium income working families and individuals, persons with special needs and seniors that are below the Core Needs Income Threshold (CNIT). The town’s website notes the facility is for those who cannot afford to pay the average market rent, cannot find affordable accommodation, live in overcrowded or shared or unsuitable accommodation, live in housing detrimental to their health, have special circumstances due to special needs, or want to retain their independence as they age.
“Affordable housing is really important for communities and it’s becoming more and more important as communities work hard to increase their capacity in that regard. Westlock Place has been a great community success for us,” said Leriger.
“And our staff have also made it a great success, but the trend seems to be that these housing authorities are growing in size and specific expertise.”
Based in Morinville, Homeland Housing formed in 2017 and covers 11 municipalities including the town, county and Village of Clyde. Locally it oversees seniors lodges and supportive living facilities like the Smithfield and Pembina lodges, self-contained seniors facilities including Parkview Place, as well the $10.7 million Morinville Affordable Housing project, known as Paul Krauskopf Court, which includes 48 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Homeland is governed by a board of directors that consists of 13 elected representatives.
“The amalgamation of the Westlock and Sturgeon foundations has been a great success, it’s gone very, very well. And Homeland’s mandate from the province, and for all those housing authorities, is for more than seniors housing, it’s for a wide range of housing … everything from supportive living, to seniors subsidized apartments to seniors affordable housing and community affordable housing,” Leriger continued.
“From my observation being on the board, it’s a strong collaborative group with good representation from each community. And it has really good administration and is being run really well.”