Calgary landlord companies are offering 550 free or discounted housing units to lodge Syrian refugees.
Bob Dhillon of Mainstreet Equities said they’ll put up 200 of the units while Boardwalk Rental Communities has offered 350 homes.
“The 200 units is just the beginning,” said Dhillon.
“As they may increase the number of Syrian refugees coming, we may increase our quota.”
At the same Calgary press conference, federal Immigration Minister John McCallum said he was impressed by the response of Calgarians, adding one priority remains to be tackled.
“It’s housing, housing, housing,” he said.
“I want these Canadians stepping up to the plate to encourage others to step up to the plate.”
Calgary could receive more than an initial number of 1,300 Syrian refugees, said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who called again for more federal funding to house them.
“We still need a little more funding to make that plan work ... we can’t afford to lose the opportunity of making people great Canadians over a few hundred dollars,” said Nenshi.
He said 439 of those fleeing the gruesome war in Syria should be in Calgary by year’s end, with the balance of the 1,300 arriving some in early 2016.
He said if more generous individuals step up, that figure could grow.
While the number of local housing units potentially available to the refugees — about 2,500 — is sufficient, without impacting efforts to lodge 3,500 of the city’s homeless.
For now, no more housing subsidies for the refugee influx are coming, said McCallum, who noted Ottawa has already earmarked nearly $700 million.
“I’m hoping the private sector will come to the rescue to a substantial degree,” he said.
Another priority is to ensure not all the refugees live in the same area or attend a narrow range of schools which could isolate and ghettoize them, said Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society.
“Look at Brussels,” he said of the Belgian capital, where immigrant populations have become dangerously alienated.
On Twitter: @SUNBillKaufmann