Calgary couple pushes for affordable housing solution as feds approve application for accelerator funds
Dima Aldahouk and Ousama Juha moved to Calgary from Syria in 2017 hoping for a better life, but the couple and their two children could be homeless by the end of the month.
Aldahouk and Juha, who both require wheelchairs, say when their lease ends on Sep. 30, they will be forced to live in their car or on the streets.
Despite the federal government's approval of the City of Calgary's application for Housing Accelerator Fund, the pending investment won't come soon enough to be of use for Aldahouk and Juha.
"Where are our human rights?" asked Aldahouk. "All of the governments say we have rights for people with disabilities, but in a few days, we will be on the streets.
"I spent so much time going to several organizations and they said to me, 'When you are homeless, come back.'
"I tried to find accessible housing and nothing. I called Calgary Housing, they said they couldn't help because they have 6000 families on the waiting list. We are a family of four, three of us are in wheelchairs and we still have to wait."
Aldahouk, a former table-tennis champion, says that she and her husband are perfectly capable of completing daily tasks like driving their kids to school, cooking and cleaning.
One thing that is always a constant struggle, however, is the stairs in their house.
"We can't find an accessible home at all," said Aldahouk. "Most of the landlords or homeowners won't even rent to us."
"Many people tell me that if I don't like it, I should just 'go back to my country,' but I'm not here to go back. This is a safe country, a country of freedom, of human rights, where is my right to live in a home? I cry all day climbing the stairs up and down and we fall all the time."
As for Juha, he says his health is deteriorating the longer he and his family have to wait for a home that suits their needs.
"I am in so much pain with my shoulders and my elbows, and I'm worried that this isn't going to end. Landlords won't let us modify homes," he said.
"We tried getting a mortgage, we tried to buy a house, we've saved our money, but we weren't accepted so if the government can look at ways to help people with disabilities or come up with some sort of program…. that would be amazing."
'MILLIONS OF DOLLARS' ON THE WAY FOR AFFORDABLE CALGARY HOMES
The City of Calgary has been given the thumbs up from Ottawa to receive a yet-to-be disclosed amount of federal funding to invest in new housing as part of the Housing Accelerator Fund.
In a letter Thursday to Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the application was successful.
It comes after Fraser had informed city council a week prior that in order to receive funding from the federal government, he 'would need to see an end to exclusionary zoning city-wide.'
"I understand that council formally adopted the plan at your special meeting on Sept. 16, 2023," read a portion of Fraser's letter.
"As a result, I am pleased to inform you that Calgary will be receiving funding under the Housing Accelerator Fund."
Fraser added that a representative from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) would soon be in touch with additional details for the city about its agreement.
Member of Parliament for Calgary-Skyview George Chahal was also mentioned in the letter as a strong advocate for the approval of funding for Calgary.
Ottawa is targeting a goal of building 100,000 new middle-class homes nationwide by 2024-25.
London, Ont., was the first city to be approved under the new program, receiving $74 million to develop 2,000 homes.
Chahal was tight-lipped on how much money the city will receive.
"I think Calgary is going to be set up very nicely with the recent housing taskforce approvals to get millions of dollars to build thousands of units," he said.
"I'm looking forward in the near future to have Minister Fraser here and also to be with the City of Calgary to make this big announcement at the appropriate time when the funding is approved."
Chahal added that the recent introduction of the GST rebate on purpose-built rentals will also facilitate the building of thousands of homes, but he says more support is still needed.
"We do need the provincial