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HOMELESS IN REGINA

Posted by strattof on September 11, 2011

There is a housing crisis in Regina. ●The city’s population is growing. ●House prices have shot up. ●Rents have skyrocketed. ●Apartment vacancy rates have plummeted.  

Hardest hit are those on low and fixed incomes (minimum wage workers, seniors, recipients of social assistance), along with single parents, young people looking for jobs, new Canadians, and students.   

While there is lots of construction going on in Regina, very little of it is devoted to housing that is affordable for low and middle income individuals and families. 

HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA: 10 KEY FACTS

1.      As many as 3,401 men, women, youth, and families in Regina used one or more of the 19 shelter services during 2010. This number only reflects those who are absolutely homeless or roofless. Many others double bunk, couch surf, or live in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions. Some even live in garages or cars. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

2.      On average, 22 women and children stayed in shelters for victims of violence each month in 2010.

3.      The average number of beds in city shelters occupied on a daily basis rose from 187 in 2008 to 270 in 2010–a 44% increase.

4.      Between 2006 and 2010, the average resale price of residential homes in Regina increased by 86%.

5.      Regina’s apartment vacancy rate was 0.7% in April 2011 and has remained at or below 1% since 2008. In April, there were only 74 vacant apartments in the city. 

6.      Between April 2008 and April 2011, the number of apartments in Regina decreased by over 500, due mainly to the conversion of apartments to condominiums.

7.      Since 2006, average rents in Regina have increased by 9% a year.  Between 2006 and 2010, average rents in Regina went up 43%.

8.      The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina in April 2011 was $770, an increase of $53 (7.4%) a month from the previous year. Assuming a 40-hour work week for 4.34 weeks a month, individuals earning the minimum wage of $9.50 an hour would spend approximately 46% of their before-tax income on rent for a one-bedroom apartment. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “Affordable Housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.

9.      A recent Salvation Army survey reported that one in five Saskatchewan adults has come close to or has actually experienced homelessness at some time in his/her life.

10.  Last winter, Carmichael Outreach put out a call to citizens of Regina to donate used tents–a last option for people.

PROVINCIAL HOUSING STRATEGY

Last month, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a new eight-year housing strategy: A Strong Foundation–The Housing Strategy for Saskatchewan. For including “Support Individuals and Families in Greatest Housing Need” as one of the “five strategic directions,” the government is to be commended. However, there is little in the plan that offers such support:   

  • According to the plan, the “private market is the main provider of housing.” This is despite the fact that the plan recognizes that the private market has little interest in providing affordable housing: “Although housing starts are up considerably, demand for affordable housing remains high as most new housing is targeted at higher-income households.”
  •  For the most part, the provincial government does not anticipate direct involvement in financing, constructing, or regulating housing. For example, while the plan recognizes that an increasing number of households are in “core housing need (pay too much and/or live in crowded conditions and in units in need of repair),” there is no mention of rent controls or rent roll-backs to improve affordability or support those in need.
  •  “Individuals and families in greatest housing need” are usually looking for rental housing and lower rents. There appears to be little in the plan that will benefit such individuals and families. The plan’s only strategy in this regard seems to be to increase the supply and availability of single family dwellings–with the hope that this will assist the rental market.
  •  The main beneficiary of this plan is likely to be the private sector: developers, contractors, real estate agents. Those in greatest housing need are unlikely to benefit.

As Premier Brad Wall keeps reminding us, “Saskatchewan is leading the nation in economic growth.” Why then are so many people homeless or in core housing need?

WHAT THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT CAN DO

As the Government of Saskatchewan’s new housing strategy rightly states, the provincial government cannot solve all of Regina’s or the province’s housing problems. For that to happen, all three levels of government would have to be involved. However, the province can do more than is indicated in the strategy:

1.   Pass rent control legislation.

2.   Develop affordable housing units through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.

3.   Put 1% of all natural resource royalties into housing.

4.   Provide funding to municipalities that endorse a Housing First policy. Housing First is, according to the government’s housing strategy, “an approach to address homelessness by providing permanent (as opposed to temporary accommodation such as emergency shelters) affordable housing and support services to chronically homeless individuals who have been homeless for extended periods of time.” It is based on the belief that once people have access to stable, affordable, and adequate housing, they can begin to address other challenges. It costs 4-10 times more per day to provide emergency, health, and police services than to provide housing.

Make housing for those in greatest housing need

an issue in the upcoming provincial election.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

  • Hirsch Greenberg, Rebecca Schiff, Alaina Harrison, and Mark Nelson, Homelessness in Regina: 2010 Report, University of Regina, 2011. To read this important report, google Homelessness in Regina: 2010 Report and click on “The Homeless Hub.” 
  • Government of Saskatchewan, A Strong Foundation–The Housing Strategy for Saskatchewan, August 2011 (available on line).
  • The Salvation Army: Giving Hope Today 2010 (available on line).
  • CHMC Rental Market Reports
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