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Archive for March, 2012

HOUSING CRISIS

Posted by strattof on March 31, 2012

Regina’s housing crisis is only getting worse. In October 2011, our city had a vacancy rate of 0.6%, the lowest in the country and down 0.1% from six months earlier. In January 2012, Regina City Council approved the demolition of a 46 unit low-rent apartment block in downtown Regina. In February 2012, Westland Properties, the owner of most of the rental units in the General Hospital area, announced that all of its properties are being reviewed for redevelopment. The 2012 provincial budget, contains nothing new when it comes to affordable housing.    

NO FOOLING  

BI-NATIONAL DAY OF HOUSING ACTION

SUNDAY APRIL 1

 10 am                  Meet on the corner of Victoria Avenue and Lorne Street by Knox Met United Church.

10 – 11am           Distribute information about Regina’s housing crisis in downtown Regina.  

Along with 1000s of other Canadians and Americans, demand housing justice. Organized by the USA, Canada Alliance of Inhabitants.

REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS: 10 KEY FACTS

1.      In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of the city’s shelter services. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in overcrowded unhealthy conditions. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

2.      Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.

3.      In 2010, 83.7% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter.

4.      Since 2006, the average resale price of residential homes in Saskatchewan has risen more than 83%.

5.      Between October 2009 and October 2011, the number of apartments in Regina decreased by 260. Over the period, many apartment buildings were converted to condominiums.

6.      Regina’s apartment vacancy rate has remained at or below 1% since 2008. A 3% vacancy rate is considered normal. Since April 2011, Regina has had the lowest apartment vacancy rate in Canada.  

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 rate for a one bedroom apartment in Regina in October 2011 was $790, an increase of $48 (6.5%) 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 49% 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 cashier earning $1,811.30 per month cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 per month or a food services supervisor earning $2,395 per month.

10.  For a minimum wage-earner to afford a bachelor apartment in Regina, the minimum wage would have to rise from its current rate of $9.50 to $10.04 per hour. A three bedroom apartment would require a minimum wage of $20.35.

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.

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 and there would be no housing crisis.

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

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

 THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT can

  • Build affordable homes and rental accommodation.
  • Allocate 3% of all natural resource royalties to affordable housing.
  • Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

 THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can

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

BOOM FOR WHOM?

Our city is experiencing unprecedented prosperity. But clearly the economic good times have not delivered equally good results for all. As a result, there is more and more misery and suffering.

We could house everyone if we had the will to do so. What kind of city do we want to live in?

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Safe, secure housing is a human right.

  • It is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “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 person.”

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IRAN: GREATEST THREAT TO WORLD PEACE?

Posted by strattof on March 23, 2012

According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Iran “is the world’s most serious threat to international peace and security.” It is, he says, “beyond dispute” that the goal of Iran’s nuclear program is “the development of nuclear weapons,” and that Iran would have “no hesitation” to use nuclear weapons should it acquire them.    

In making such claims, the Harper government is preparing the ground for Canadian involvement in an Israeli- or US-led military campaign against Iran. Before we are stampeded into supporting yet another war, we need clear answers to two questions:  

  • Is Iran developing nuclear weapons?   
  • What would be the consequences of an attack on Iran?

IS IRAN DEVELOPING NUCLEAR WEAPONS?

There is no evidence that Iran is attempting or planning to build a bomb.

  • Iran itself denies the charge, insisting that the sole aim of its nuclear program is to develop the ability to produce nuclear energy for peaceful, power-generating purposes, as it is entitled to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • More crucially, none of the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency indicate that Iran has developed or is about the develop nuclear weapons. The worst the IAEA has said is that it “continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” (Report to UN Security Council, February 24 2012, emphasis added).
  • Last month, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told US legislators that, while Iran is enriching uranium for its nuclear power program, “intelligence does not show that they’ve made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon.”

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, the same discredited argument used to justify the disaster of Iraq, is being used to make the case for an attack on Iran.

If Stephen Harper had been Prime Minister of Canada in 2003, Canada would have gone to war against Iraq. The then leader of the Conservative opposition wrote to the Wall Street Journal that the Liberal government’s decision to stay out of Iraq was a “serious mistake” and that disarming Iraq was “necessary for the long-term security of the world.”

WHAT WOULD BE THE CONSEQUENCES OF AN ATTACK ON IRAN?

  • Massive Civilian Casualties: Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would kill large numbers of Iranian civilians. It would also spew radioactive materials into the air and water of Iran and beyond.
  • Retaliation: Another western attack on a Muslim state would likely trigger retaliation, putting the lives of civilians in western countries in danger.
  • Economic Havoc: An attack would damage the international oil market and hence further weaken the global economy.
  • Regional Conflagration: Iran’s regional allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza, and the Gulf would be mobilized.
  • Global Conflagration: An attack on Iran might trigger a Third World War as it has the potential to bring nuclear-armed Russia, China, and Pakistan into the conflict.

 Which is a greater threat to world peace:

Iran or Stephen Harper?

NUCLEAR DOUBLE STANDARDS: 4 EXAMPLES

1.   Iran has no nuclear weapons and western countries are threatening it with dire consequences for failing to reveal what it is doing in the nuclear area. Israel, Iran’s main adversary, has a huge arsenal of unacknowledged nuclear weapons and western countries aren’t saying anything. In other words, Israel is allowed to have as many nuclear weapons as it wants, while Iran is not allowed to have any.

2.   Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has openly defied the Treaty by refusing to sign it. And while Iran has subjected itself to international inspections, Israel has refused to open up its actually existing nuclear weapons program to international scrutiny. Yet it is Iran, not Israel, which is being severely punished with crippling sanctions and threatened with attack. Israel, by contrast, is being given economic, military, and diplomatic support. 

3.   Israel is the most aggressive state in the region, having conducted military attacks on other countries at least four times since 2006. Iran, by comparison, has never attacked another country in modern history. Yet it is Iran, not Israel, that western leaders and media describe as aggressive and highly dangerous.  

4.   The IAEA does not publish reports on US nuclear weapons, currently numbering 5,133 warheads. Nor does it say anything about Britain’s and France’s nuclear weapons.     

ELIMINATION OF ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS

If the United States and Israel, along with Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, can have nuclear weapons, why can’t Iran? How can the US, which is the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons, forbid others to have their own?

 “So long as [nuclear] weapons exist, it is inevitable that the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be repeated–somewhere, sometime–in an unforgivable affront to humanity itself” (Takashi Hiraoka, Mayor of Hiroshima, Hiroshima Peace Declaration, 6 August 1995).

The only way to stop nuclear proliferation is to create a world in which there are no nuclear weapons. Our first task, then, is to call on all nuclear weapons states to destroy their nuclear weapons.

No nuclear weapons in Iran! No nuclear weapons in Israel! No nuclear weapons in the United State. No nuclear weapons in  Britain, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, or North Korea!

NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS ANYWHERE!

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REGINA PUBLIC LIBRARY: UNDER ATTACK AGAIN?

Posted by strattof on March 15, 2012

In 2003, the Library Board, with the support of City Council, announced the closure of three library branches–Connaught, Glen Elm, and Prince of Wales–along with the main branch’s Dunlop Art Gallery and Prairie History Room.

In response, Regina citizens mobilized, forming the Friends of the Regina Public Library. Leading five months of public protests and collecting more than 26,000 petition signatures, this group forced the closures to be rescinded. 

Today, the Library Board has major plans for the Central Branch. But it is refusing to be open about them. Indeed, there have been no public consultations since August 2009.

The Library is public property, owned by the citizens of Regina. We must be involved in any changes that are to be made to our Library.  

LIBRARY BOARD’S PLAN FOR CENTRAL LIBRARY: WHAT IS IT?

Since the Library Board continues to be secretive about its plans for Central Library, the following information has been pieced together from a variety of sources.

1.   In 2009, the Library Board announced it had commissioned the Regina firms, P3 Architecture and Harvard Developments, to conduct a feasibility study for a new Central Library.

2.   Harvard Developments approached various non-profit organizations to become partners in the project. Globe Theatre agreed.

3.   In April 2011, the Vancouver firm, Nick Milkovich Architects, put up images on its website of what a new Central Library “would look like.” The drawings showed “a dramatic building rising high into the sky and stretching out to cover most of the west side of the 1900 block of Lorne Street.” According to the Library Board, the images had been “released prematurely” (Joe Couture, “New library plan in early stages,” Leader Post, April 28 2011).

4.   While the site made mention of “hotel and commercial space” (Couture), it made no mention of space for the Dunlop Art Gallery or the RPL Film Theatre. Nor is there any reference to these facilities in the 2011 Annual Report made by the Library Board to City Council.

5.   The drawings show the new building as not only covering the land on which the Central Library now stands, but also the land immediately south of it where the Masonic Temple presently stands.

6.   The Masons are under pressure from the Library Board and Harvard Developments to sell their land. To date, the Masons have not agreed to sell.  

7.   Both the Masonic Temple and the Central Library are protected within the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District. Completed in 1926, the Masonic Temple is one of Regina’s oldest buildings. Built in 1962, the Central Library is an excellent example of the City’s modernist architecture.

8.   In June 2011, the Library Board submitted an application to the P3 Canada Fund. The Library has been accepted into the first phase of this funding process. The deadline for the next phase–the business plan–is March 31 2012.

THE PLAN: WHAT WE NOW KNOW

 Here’s what we now know about the Library Board’s plan for the Central Library. According to the plan:

  • The Central Library and the Masonic Temple, both heritage buildings, will be demolished.
  • Harvard Developments will construct a large multi-use cultural-commercial facility on the land where Central Library and Masonic Temple once stood.
  • Harvard will lease back some of the space to the Library and other cultural organizations. Space will also be allocated to private businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, and hotels.
  • The Library Board has not publically stated that the new Central Library will include space for the Film Theatre and Dunlop Gallery.
  • The project will be a P3 or Public Private Partnership project.

P3s: PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS: WHAT ARE THEY?

P3s are legally binding contracts between governments and businesses for the provision of infrastructure and services. They tend to be one-sided, favouring private profit over public interest.  

  • P3s transfer public property and services into private hands. As a result, there is a loss of public accountability. For example, in order to maximize profits, corporations often cut services or bring in user fees making services inaccessible for many people.   
  • P3s cost more. In P3 schemes, the public pays for the service and the profits that must be paid to shareholders. Moreover, P3s are financed by private borrowing which has higher interest rates than public sector rates.
  • P3s mean huge profits for private firms.
  • P3s may give the appearance of lower government debt levels, but they do not take debt off the books. A long-term capital lease is still a debt.
  • P3s undermine democracy by reducing the capability, power, and responsibility of governments to provide and deliver services. 

TAKE ACTION

Since 1912, Central Library has been public property, bought and paid for by Regina taxpayers. The transfer of this public property into private hands requires public approval.

  • Contact the members of the Library Board and let them know that you want the board to be open and transparent about its plans for Central Library and that you want citizen participation in the process:

   Darlene Hincks Joehnck, Chair: dhincks@reginalibrary.ca

   Jeff Barber: jbarber@reginalibrary.ca

   Elaine Kivisto: ekivisto@reginalibrary.ca

   Darrly Lucke: dlucke@reginalibrary.ca

   Sharron Bryce: sbryce@reginalibrary.ca

   Pat Fiacco: pfiacco@reginalibrary.ca

   Janet Brown: jbrown@reginalibrary.ca

   Renu Kapoor: rkapoor@reginalibrary.ca

   Gerald Kleisinger: gkleisinger@reginalibrary.ca

   Shelley Monson: smonson@reginalibrary.ca

WE LOVE REGINA PUBLIC LIBRARIES

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