The Heartland Housing Foundation Story
When Albertans think about Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan, the mental images don’t often include senior citizens, community housing, or social services. With an economy underpinned by industrial petroleum processing facilities, the region’s image is one of younger tradespeople and families. But the Alberta Heartland’s boom began back in the 1950s. A couple of generations later, the population of seniors in the region is climbing rapidly, and housing affordability is a challenge for people of all ages. Rental rates are higher in the Heartland region than they are in the City of Edmonton.
The first seniors home built in the region was Clover Bar Lodge, built in 1960. More were added over the next four decades, funded by the province and managed by local service clubs and foundations. By the early 2000s, awareness was growing of the need for more coordination and efficiency in delivering community housing around the region. The Councils of Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County worked together to amalgamate three housing foundations in 2013 to create Heartland Housing Foundation. Today, Heartland Housing Foundation operates 11 facilities spanning seniors’ lodges and apartment buildings and an affordable family housing complex.
Housing is more than a basic human need – a secure, comfortable and affordable home keeps at-risk people from falling through the cracks. By consolidating management of facilities with nearly 550 units in total under different operating models, Heartland Housing Foundation built on its legacy to develop a culture of operational excellence. Employees are proud to deliver caring, quality service to their current and future residents, and to do so cost-effectively as a not-for-profit foundation.
The problem facing Heartland Housing Foundation and the region is the great and growing need for secure housing for people of low and moderate income. All of the Foundation’s properties have wait lists, which can be up to five years for apartments. The proportion of affordable housing is far lower in Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan than it is in Edmonton or in Canada, while the population of seniors is growing faster in the region than it is elsewhere.
Housing is built to last for decades, while economic cycles come and go quickly. It is difficult to get the housing mix right, to secure adequate funding for new facilities, and to deliver excellent service while keeping costs low. But Heartland Housing Foundation is up to the challenge. In 2017, the Board of Directors adopted a bold new vision: homes for all. Driven by this vision, the organization is seeking to cement its central position in the social fabric of this vibrant region in the heart of the province.
In its short history, Heartland Housing Foundation has already taken leadership in sparking a bigger picture conversation about housing in the greater Edmonton area. Heartland Housing Foundation is known above all as strong and collaborative. Deeply engaged in the local community, the organization is highly trusted by its partners. More than just a service provider, Heartland Housing Foundation has become a resourceful community leader, finding creative solutions to complex social challenges.
Ultimately, Heartland Housing Foundation touches people and improves their lives. People often move into a Heartland Housing Foundation unit during a difficult period in their lives. They typically have had little support, and they may be eating poorly and struggling with failing health. A safe home staffed by compassionate people and offering a human touch and some fun makes a huge difference. Resident satisfaction is high across all Heartland Housing Foundation buildings. One of the site managers says, “My Grandma got her life back when she moved into Clover Bar Lodge 25 years ago. That’s why I’m proud to work here.”