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Group continues to pursue affordable housing for Métis
Plans to build both affordable housing and market housing for the Métis community are delayed but not dead even though the land originally purchased to help finance the venture can no longer be used.
Shelley Wegner, project manager for Kanata Métis Cultural Enterprises Ltd., said they are entertaining both private offers for the land, located in Edmonton’s River Valley, as well as a land swap with the city.
“It’s very preliminary,” said Wegner. “We’re not anywhere close to negotiating price. We’re quite far apart on the city’s appraisal and our appraised value.”
Kanata spent $8 million to purchase the 107 acres of River Valley land in 2009. On top of that, the organization spent an additional $2.5 million for environmental studies. Kanata ran into difficulty a year after the purchase when the city changed its Municipal Development Plan to no longer allowing extraction of gravel on that land. Last year, Kanata applied for council to amend the MDP and to rezone the land, allowing for gravel extraction. However, vocal opposition from residents in the region saw the motion defeated by one vote. Kanata had planned to mine the gravel for five years and reclaim the land in the sixth year. The $50 million worth of revenue to be generated through mining the River Valley property was to be used to train Métis and Aboriginal workers; to build a Métis cultural natural area; and to purchase land from the city to develop a housing complex.
Last August, city council directed its Transportation Committee to examine the possibility of a land swap, which would allow the housing project to go ahead in a different part of the city.
Wegner said the land swap is not the only option Kanata is considering. Selling the land is still a possibility. She noted that private developers have met with Kanata to see about purchasing the land.
“We have partners that have already said they would like to come forward and work with us on the housing project,” said Wegner. She said she was not at liberty to name those partners.
Some of the homes will be market housing which will help offset the loss of revenue from the sale of gravel which was to be used to finance the housing project.
Wegner noted that federal support for the initiative has been forthcoming although not in funding.
“We’ve just started to sit down and meet stakeholders that may be interested in a project like this,” said Wegner.
Wegner said Kanata is going back to the community and getting consensus as to what direction should be taken and what is the best utilization of the River Valley property. Kanata is headed by the Elizabeth Métis Settlement and has the full support of the province’s other seven Métis settlements for the project.
“The sky is still the limit. We’re not in any hurry to develop, to sell or to trade. We’re still open to negotiations,” said Wegner. She added she didn’t expect any decision to be finalized for at least a year.
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