W E W A N T A F F O R D A B L E H O U S I N G
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.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding the City has signed with the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the total cost of the stadium will be $675 million. Of this amount, at least $300 million will be taxpayers’ money.
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, 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. Homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5% between 2006 and 2010.
5. 83% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter in 2010.
6. The number of apartments in Regina decreased by 260 between October 2009 and 2011. 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. Individuals working a 40-hour work week at minimum wage ($9.50 per hour) spend 49.5% of their before-tax income on rent for a one bedroom apartment. “Affordable housing,” as defined by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is 30% or less of a household’s 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:
If City council can spend $300 million worth of public money on a new stadium, it can spend $300 million on affordable housing.
HOW MANY AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS CAN WE GET FOR ONE STADIUM?
At a cost of $150,000 per unit, $300 million will get us,
2,000 affordable housing units.
City Council can adopt a Housing First plan, as so many other Canadian cities have done. This approach to homelessness addresses the problem by providing people with permanent homes and the support they require to keep them. In 2011, in its second year of implementation, Edmonton’s Housing First plan secured 956 permanent homes for 1,352 people who had been homeless. In that same year, the number of Edmontonians staying in homeless shelters 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%.City Council claims it is powerless to do anything to stop apartment block demolitions. This is not true. City Council could pass 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 Daisy, Daisy)
Give us more, please do!
We’re half crazy
All for the lack of you.
The situation’s deplorable.
We have no housing that’s affordable.
We don’t need a stadium.
We already have one.
Affordable housing, we need you!