Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

NO ROOM AT THE INN: REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

Posted by strattof on December 14, 2012

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 0.9%, 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

When he was running for mayor, Michael Fougere said that he would make an affordable housing summit his “first priority.”  Nearly two months have passed since he was elected, yet there have been no housing summit announcements. It is never good to be homeless in Regina, but in winter it is deadly. 

PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN

In August 2011, the province announced a new eight-year housing strategy: A Strong Foundation–The Housing Strategy for Saskatchewan. 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 20 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 low or fixed income;

2. Lack of affordable housing.

To solve the housing crisis we need leadership from and 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

  • 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%.
  • Identify empty buildings that can be converted into affordable housing units and fund their renovation.
  • Offer to lease the land the province is selling in the city’s northwest under a no-fee lease arrangement. Along with the non-profit housing sector build affordable housing on it.
  • Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT can

  • Stop the sale of Housing Authority rental properties.
  • Build more affordable 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 economic expansion. But this has not delivered good times for all. We could house everyone if we had the will to do so.

What kind of city do we want to live in?

MAKING ROOM AT THE INN: TAKE ACTION

During the holiday festivities, take the time to advocate for affordable housing. Let our political leaders know that you do not want to live in a city, province, or country that does not comply with right to housing legislation and that you want each level of government to take concrete action to address Regina’s housing crisis.

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