Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Housing partnership aims to break cycle of poverty

NAIT teams up with Capital Region Housing and Stuart Olson

People who live in subsidized housing will help build Edmonton’s newest social housing project – and potentially gain a foothold on a new career – thanks to a partnership between NAIT, Capital Region Housing (CRH) and construction company Stuart Olson.

Stuart Olson, which is building the new 240-unit Londonderry redevelopment for CRH, would like at least five per cent of its workers on the job to be tenants of the social housing provider’s other buildings.

“We’re trying to create an environment for tenants to succeed, for their families to take a leap forward.”

“We thought, wouldn’t be amazing if some of the people who are going to live in this building actually helped us build it?” says Chris Johnston, the regional director of business development at Stuart Olson. “In essence, we’re trying to help solve the social housing crisis, rather than just build a building that’s going to house a few more folks.”

Participants will be able to train at NAIT as apprentices while working for Stuart Olson and its sub-trade contractors on the three-year project, slated to begin this fall. About 200 people will work on the construction at its peak.

Affordable housing tenants at a trades previewNAIT hosts info session

About 70 CRH tenants interested in working on the project attended an info session at NAIT last weekend. The hands-on event saw NAIT instructors from the millwork and carpentry, electrician, plumber, HVAC refrigeration technician and sheet metal programs demonstrate their trades and answer questions.

Abdul Farah, who has worked as a pipefitter in Fort McMurray, came to the preview to look into training as a plumber so he can work in Edmonton, closer to his wife and five children. He brought his 17-year-old son Ali to explore training as an electrician or HVAC refrigeration technician.

Constantin Mutombo was also looking at training as a plumber. “Plumbers have jobs all the time,” he says. “Everybody needs a plumber, in construction and in renovations.”

Greg Dewling, CEO of Capital Region Housing, says the partnership idea came from the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which has employed tenants in construction and maintenance on some of its projects.  

“We saw this as a chance for some of them to break the poverty cycle in this generation,” says Dewling. “Sometimes all people need is a chance so we thought, let’s give them a chance.”

As an added incentive, participating tenants won’t see their rent increase as their income grows during the three years of the construction project, he adds. (Tenants are usually charged 30 per cent of their income as rent.)

“It’s really exciting to see a helping organization, a responsible corporate citizen and a post-secondary institution all coming together.”

“We’re trying to create an environment for tenants to succeed, for their families to take a leap forward. Some just need that hand up to become a little more independent.”

The project is open to all residents of CRH’s 5,200 homes.

Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette helped celebrate the project’s launch at the NAIT trades preview.

“It’s really exciting to see a helping organization, a responsible corporate citizen and a post-secondary institution all coming together to provide something that can be life-changing for people. This is the kind of thing that we would like to see more of in the city of Edmonton.”


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