Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

NO ROOM AT THE INN: REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

Posted by strattof on December 17, 2011

The Christmas story is quite well-known: Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem and find there is no room at the inn.

But how familiar are we with the current accommodation crisis in Regina. 2000 years later, there is still no room at the inn.

  • In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of Regina’s shelter services.
  • Many others double bunked, couch surfed, or lived in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions. Some even lived in cars or garages. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.
  • In 2010, 83.7% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter.
  • A fulltime minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in Regina.
  • The vacancy rate in Regina is currently 0.7%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available.

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Safe, decent housing is a human right.

  • It is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Canada signed in 1948: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, [and] housing.”
  • The right to housing is also enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law in 1982. Because it puts their health and life at risk, homelessness breaches a homeless person’s Charter Section 7 rights to “life, liberty and security of the person.”

Neither the City of Regina nor the provincial and federal governments are in compliance with the human right to housing. If they were, there would not be a housing crisis in Regina.

CITY OF REGINA

The City of Regina’s response to the housing crisis is to pass the buck. When challenged, City officials say affordable housing is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments.

PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN

In August, the province 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, according to the plan, the “private market is the main provider of housing.” Relying on the private sector to solve the housing crisis will only send more people out into the cold. The Saskatchewan housing market has been unregulated for 20 years. If it were in the interest of the private sector to provide affordable housing, it would already have done so.

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

In 1973, the federal government instituted a national affordable housing program which, for the next decade, created about 20,000 housing units per year. In the 1980s, the federal government made spending cuts to that program. In 1993, it cancelled funding for new affordable housing altogether. The result has been the rise of mass homelessness over the last 15 years. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.

SOLVING THE HOUSING CRISIS

The biggest causes of homelessness are

1. Financial: loss of a job, rent increases, a fixed income;

2. Lack of affordable housing.

The solution to the housing crisis is intervention in the housing market by all levels of government. Here are some of the things each level of government can do:

CITY COUNCIL can

  1. Pass landlord licensing laws.
  2. Develop affordable housing units that would be managed by the Regina Housing Authority.
  3. Require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  4. Deny applications for condo conversions when the apartment vacancy rate is under 3%.
  5. Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT can

  1. Pass rent control legislation to prevent exploitative rent increases.
  2. Build affordable homes and rental accommodation.
  3. Allocate 3% of all natural resource royalties to affordable housing.
  4. Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

 THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can

  1. Develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

MAKING ROOM AT THE INN

During the holiday festivities, take the time to advocate for affordable housing. Let our political leaders know you do not want to live in a city, province, or country that does not comply with right to housing legislation. 

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