Today, I set a precedent. I attended a press conference to celebrate affordable housing in Regina outraged, rather than excited. The provincial and federal governments, along with Deveraux Developments, all trumpeted the completion of 30 affordable housing units in a 160 unit building. This development should be celebrated. Mixed income housing in desirable neighbourhoods is key to sustainable, affordable housing development and prevents ghettoization of the poor, but this announcement stunk.
Is it coincidence that this event featured the same two parties who walked away from an affordable housing development in Hawkstone eliminating 48 new affordable housing units from the market? Is it coincidence that we celebrated a separate 30 affordable spaces one day after questions about the loss of those 48 units, which were funded by selling 40 other Saskatchewan Housing properties? The direct result is that we now wait 3 more years for these 48 spaces while wondering what the effects of a 40 unit reduction in affordable stock will be.
The reality of Regina’s rental market is evident. One tenant informs me of break-ins at “secure” unit, another that they haven’t had water for 3 months, and another that their basement is still full of mould, mud, and water from June’s flooding. This, is private market, affordable housing. Wait times, despite Minister Harpauer’s claims, are not shrinking for those seeking quality, affordable housing. This past year, the third full year of the Carmichael Outreach Housing Support Program, our two Coordinators performed 342 intakes, meaning we worked with 342 individuals or families struggling to find housing. Of those 342, 27 were helped on multiple occasions to find housing for a variety of reasons listed above; as our list of those in need grows, so do the number of properties unwilling to rent to individuals/families receiving government assistance.
Affordable, private market housing is synonymous with unsafe, low quality housing. There are exceptions to the rule, but they are rare. So, members of our community wait for affordable housing providers to ensure they have a safe and healthy home. The Hawkstone project, according to Deveraux’s COO, gave a government option to choose between basements and crawl spaces. Basements were chosen and costs increased $400,000. Rather than share the $400,000 cost, or require Deveraux to honour their proposal for these 40 spaces, the Government of Saskatchewan delayed these units by another 3 years and reduced available stock by 40 spaces simultaneously; a difficult accomplishment to be sure, but one that should be recognized. Amazingly, the Government of Saskatchewan declares wait times have shrunk 50% while affordable housing partners tell us that individuals are waiting an average of 3 years for affordable housing, and up to 6 years in some cases.
Let’s suggest that these 48 units were used to house the individuals I help each day. These individuals, despite Minister Harpauer’s claim are largely homeless, and largely desperate, and most know our community members who froze to death last winter due to their homelessness. Rather than investing $200,000 for 10 years of affordable housing, this government subsidizes emergency shelter at a cost of $2000 per month, which for 48 individuals is roughly $200,000 over two months. There is no more clear indication of a lack of strategy and comprehensive planning to provide housing to those in need than to subsidize two months of emergency funding, and not 10 years of affordable housing.
Minister Harpauer is right, the Government of Saskatchewan’s decision would have been precedent setting, but the only precedent it would have set was this government caring about the people of this province over money.
Housing Support Coordinator