Roof-Ready Regina – Round 2

by Nic Olson

The following was presented at the Alternative Housing Summit Press Conference on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 in Regina, Saskatchewan to put pressure on the City of Regina to take serious steps to improve the affordable housing crisis in Regina.

Right now the City and developers are upstairs patting themselves on the back for a year of inaction and bare minimums. They’re talking about purportedly innovative housing starts in the city that won’t even put a dent in the affordable housing crisis that still exists in our city. Since the Mayor’s Housing Summit last year, the City has been paying developers to build normal, everyday, market rental units. Because of pressure from the community through Roof-Ready Regina project, they have recently changed their subsidy program and now use the CMHC definition of affordable housing, that is 30% of an individual’s income.

This past year developers built more market rental units and sucked up as much of the municipal subsidy as they could before the unsustainable, nonsensical program inevitably changed. Housing starts were up, the vacancy rate went up, but more importantly rental costs continue to soar; that is what they’re here celebrating.

Locally and provincially no firm plan has been created to address homelessness when similar cities in the country have set specific goals and measures to ensure the end of homelessness within ten years. Instead the city has gone as far as to subsidize and entirely rely on the market to do what is the government’s job. The municipal government repeatedly claims that housing isn’t their fiscal responsibility, however this doesn’t absolve the city from being a proactive player in ending homelessness.

Several small steps could be made to keep developers accountable and to improve the housing situation of the most marginalized in our city.

  1. Requiring developers to build a certain percentage of their units as affordable housing, or requiring them to pay into an affordable housing fund would be a progressive step to ensure adequate amounts of affordable housing was created, and to make a sustainable housing program run by the city.
  2. Forming true partnerships with the provincial government to align programs and funding is the logical step for the city to move forward. Creating an Action Plan with solid, measured, and attainable goals in affordable housing is the responsible thing for the City to do, with the help from the provincial and federal government

In working with community I have seen dozens of people living in substandard housing that they can still barely afford because of rental costs in the city, and for many, the idea of living in a safe, healthy, and affordable place of their own is a pipe dream. It takes a responsible community and more importantly a responsible, just, and moral government to ensure that housing is accessible to all.

Decisions of policy makers have not been made in the public interest but in the interest of private developers and in the interest of garnering votes. Focusing on low-income seniors and single-parent families is incredibly important, but is often done to sway the public interest and not to truly cover the marginalized in our society. The municipal government has the opportunity to be a proactive player in developing policy to ensure that adequate amounts of affordable housing is developed in our community, and they have the responsibility to partner with all levels of government to do so. We call on the City to develop proactive and concrete plan to improve housing for everyone, not just everyone who can pay for it.