Roof-Ready Regina: Let’s Try One More Time
by Nic Olson
If you missed it last time, I will be presenting at City Council again this Monday, June 10. Below is what I will say to a a group of dead-eyed politicians. If you want to know more I enjoy discussing the topic, that is, if you enjoy buying me supper or beer. Or even otherwise, I guess.
It is evident that housing is a priority for city council. The Mayor’s Housing Summit was the necessary first step in presenting new ideas to include in conversations between government and the private and non-profit sectors. Now the conversations begin.
The City of Regina has come up with plans to improve the rental market housing issue in Regina. Positive steps such as ‘capital incentives which focus on larger projects with a minimum unit number for eligibility for private developers, with no minimum for non-profits,’ (page 19, Appendix A, Comprehensive Housing Strategy Implementation Plan) have been taken. The lack of rental market housing is an evident problem in our city, however the City of Regina does not adequately address rental housing, in that truly affordable rental housing is not given priority. Properly addressing homelessness on a municipal level would include taking the aforementioned plan of capital incentives on larger projects one step further, and requiring developers to include affordable rental housing in medium and large projects as well, as has been done in Montreal. This is a municipal initiative that ensures an adequate percentage of affordable rental housing is produced. Instead of offering incentives to developers, who will build regardless in such times of prosperity, we must take advantage of these times to ensure that affordable rental housing is a part of the plan, thus ensuring that those who need help the most get it.
Offering incentives to developers for truly affordable housing makes sense. However, offering incentives to developers based on the Plan’s current definition, that is, “at or below market rates”, is not an immediate cure for the lack of affordable housing in the city. The “trickle-down” effect, best-case scenario, would take years to properly represent what CMHC would consider affordable rental housing, that is, “the cost of adequate shelter not exceeding 30% of a person’s income.” Affordable housing is a necessary tool in the transitionary Housing First model, which is briefly mentioned in the Implementation Plan of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy (page 65, Appendix A, Comprehensive Housing Strategy Implementation Plan), and recommended by several presenters at the Housing Summit. Other cities have taken multi-year pledges to eliminate homelessness on a municipal level, taking the lead by advocating strongly to the provincial and federal governments, as well as implementing strategies similar to those that have been previously shared through the Roof-Ready Regina Document, and other community-based initiatives. With the current Implementation Strategy the City of Regina is taking steps to improve the rental housing market, but is effectively doing nothing to eliminate homelessness.
Please, as you move forward with the Implementation Plan of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy, consider the importance of affordable housing in a healthy community and economy, and take every possible step a municipal government can to address these issues. Homelessness is not just a provincial or federal issue. If homelessness is to be ended, municipal governments must also take significant steps. Let us use what we learned from our counterparts in Calgary and Vancouver and take a proactive step in ending homelessness, starting with a proper plan to include affordable housing.