Regina’s housing crisis is only getting worse:
In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, over 3,400 people used Regina’s shelter services.
- Today, the city’s shelter system is filled to capacity.
- Regina’s rental vacancy rate is 1%, the lowest in the country.
- The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $831, an increase of $139 (20.1%) over the past 3 years.
- A full-time minimum wage worker, earning $1736 per month, cannot afford a one room apartment in Regina. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “affordable housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.
- Earlier this month, tenants of a Cathedral area apartment block received notice that their rent was going up 77%. A public outcry forced the landlord to reconsider.
REGINA COMPREHENSIVE HOUSING STRATEGY
In December 2011, City Council dispersed $100,000 for the development of a Regina Comprehensive Housing Strategy. Prepared by an Ontario firm, SHS Consulting, the report was finally released March 22 2013.
Will the recommended strategies, if acted on, solve Regina’s housing crisis?
The stated principles on which the report is based are impressive. They include:
- All residents should have a safe, secure, affordable and well-maintained home.
- Policy and resources of government should be aimed at areas where there are gaps in the private market’s ability to address housing needs, namely the needs of low and moderate income households, and the needs of homeless individuals should be prioritized.
Useless Recommendations: The Private Market
Many of the recommended strategies rely on the private housing market to solve Regina’s housing crisis. As the report itself admits, the market does not work for “low and moderate income households” or “homeless individuals.” If it were in the interest of the private sector to provide truly affordable housing or social housing, it would already have done so.
The report also contains a number of valuable recommendations:
- #2: Leverage the City’s land assets to increase the supply of rental, affordable and special needs housing. In fact, all of the revenue derived from the sale or development of City-owned land should be put into social housing.
- #9: Advocate to federal and provincial governments for additional support for rental, affordable, and special needs housing.
- #s10-14: This set of recommendations concerns the retention and repair of existing housing stock. As the report states, much of Regina’s rental housing “is in need of major repair.” Rental unit licensing is the answer.
LIVING UP TO HOUSING PRINCIPLES
WHAT CITY COUNCIL MUST DO
City Council must act quickly on the useful recommendations in the Strategy document. It also needs to act on the recommendations of those at ground zero of Regina’s housing crisis: affordable housing advocates and those suffering the consequences of the housing crisis.
Here’s a little list of “must do” strategies:
Pressure the federal and provincial governments to provide adequate funding for social housing.
Pressure the provincial government to pass rent control legislation.
Adopt a Housing First policy – like Calgary and Edmonton.
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%.
Introduce rental unit licensing.
Put all of the revenue derived from the development of City-owned land into social housing.
If the City of Regina can build a “social stadium” – a stadium built with public money – it can also build social housing.
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.”
Approving residential development right next to the Co-op Refinery? Have City Councillors lost their minds? The provincial Ministry of Environment advises against it. So do the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and the Co-op Refinery. What is City Council thinking?
Let Mayor Fougere know
- That you want City Council to take concrete action to solve Regina’s housing crisis.
- That the private housing market does not work for poor people.
- That if the City of Regina can build a “social stadium,” it can build social housing.
- That City Council should reconsider its approval of residential development next to the Co-op Refinery.
►Attend Mayor Fougere’s next Meet and Greet session, April 5, 9 – 11:30 am at the Mayor’s Office in City Hall