The City of Regina has its priorities upside down. Regina is in the midst of a housing crisis, yet all city officials can think of is a new football stadium.
And they want $149.4 million worth of taxpayers’ money to be spent on it:
- $60.6 million from the City’s own coffers;
- $80 million from the provincial treasury;
- $8.8 million from Ottawa.
Regina already has a perfectly serviceable football stadium. Why tear it down–especially after it has been refurbished to the tune of $14 million for the 2013 Grey Cup?
The new stadium is part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative. Both city and provincial officials will tell you this plan includes affordable housing. But it does not.
What the plan calls for is “up to 700 new affordable, market-rate housing units.” “Affordable, market-rate housing” is an oxymoron. As everyone knows, the market-rate for housing in Regina is anything but affordable.
REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS
10 KEY FACTS
1. Regina’s apartment vacancy rate is the lowest in Canada, according to the spring 2012 report of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It is 0.6%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available in the city.
2. Average rent in Regina increased 5.5% from April 2011, well beyond the rate of inflation.
3. In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, 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.
4. Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.
5. In 2010, 83% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter.
6. 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. Apartment buildings also continue to be lost to demolition.
7. The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $817, an increase of $47 (5.8%) a month from the previous year.
8. Assuming a 40-hour work week for 4.34 weeks a month, individuals earning the minimum wage of $9.50 an hour would spend 49.5% 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. Many Regina citizens have to choose between paying the rent and buying food. 20,655 people used a food bank in Saskatchewan in 2011.
SOLVING REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS
Ask City Council to do something about Regina’s affordable housing crisis, and the response is always “Housing is not a municipal responsibility.” This is not a helpful reply. While City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s housing problems, there are many things it can do to alleviate Regina’s housing crisis:
Although it only got $80 million, City Council asked the provincial government for $208.8 million for a football stadium. Why can’t it ask the provincial government for $208.8 million for affordable housing?
City Council can put all of the public money earmarked for a new stadium (currently $149.4 million) into affordable housing.
HOW MANY AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS CAN WE GET FOR ONE STADIUM? At a cost of $150,000 per unit, $149.4 million will get us 996 affordable housing units.
City Council can adopt a Housing First plan–as so many other Canadian cities have done. Housing First is an approach to homelessness which sees the first step in solving the problem as being to provide people with permanent homes and the support they require to keep them. Figures from Edmonton indicate what can be achieved by a Housing First plan. In 2011, two years into its implementation, 956 permanent homes had been secured for 1,352 people who had been homeless. The number of Edmontonians staying in homeless shelters had dropped by 23%.
City Council can require developers to include a certain number of affordable housing units in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
City Council can pass bylaws to protect rental housing. ●City Council is to be commended for having already passed one such bylaw, the condominium conversion bylaw prohibiting condo conversions when the city’s vacancy rate is below 2%. ●However, City Council claims it is powerless to do anything to stop apartment block demolitions. But there is nothing stopping City Council from passing a demolition bylaw prohibiting the demolition of apartment blocks until the supply and availability of rental housing returns to a healthy state. Toronto has had such a bylaw since 2007.
THE HOUSING SONG
(To the tune of A Bicycle Built For Two)
Give us more, please do!
We’re half crazy
All for the lack of you.
The situations deplorable.
We have no housing that’s affordable.
We don’t need a stadium.
We already have one.
Affordable housing, we need you!
Phone Mayor Fiacco and sing him the Housing Song. Also give him some facts about Regina’s housing crisis–see page 2 of this pamphlet. Convey the same message to your City Councillor.
Mayor Pat Fiacco: 777-7339
Ward 1, Louis Browne: 531-5151
Ward 2, Jocelyn Hutchinson: 584-1739
Ward 3, Fred Clipsham: 757-8212
Ward 4, Michael Fougere: 789-5586
Ward 5, John Findura: 536-4250
Ward 6, Wade Murray: 522-8683
Ward 7, Sharron Bryce: 949-5025
Ward 8, Mike O’Donnell: 545-7300
Ward 9, Terry Hinks: 949-9690
Ward 10, Chris Szarka: 551-2766