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Archive for April, 2013

HOUSING CRISIS: LET’S DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Posted by strattof on April 30, 2013

K E Y   F A C T S

  •  Regina’s rental vacancy rate is 1%, the lowest in the country.
  • 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.
  • The average monthly rent for a two bedroom apartment in Regina is $979, hardly affordable for many working Reginans. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “affordable housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.
  • A full-time minimum wage worker, earning $1736 per month, cannot even afford a one bedroom apartment (average monthly rent of $831).  
  • Recently, 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

THE BACKGROUND

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?

HOUSING PRINCIPLES

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.

Does the Comprehensive Housing Strategy live up to these principles?

VALUABLE RECOMMENDATIONS

The report 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, until the rental vacancy rate reaches 3%, all revenue derived from the sale or development of City-owned land should be invested in 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.

PROBLEMS

1.  Definition of “Affordable Rental Housing”

The report uses a “made-in-Regina” definition of affordable rental housing: “housing with rents at or below average market rent. If the City genuinely wishes to address Regina’s affordable rental housing crisis, it must use the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s definition of affordability: “The cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income.”

2.  Recommendations Relying on the Private Market

A number of the recommended strategies rely on the private housing market to solve Regina’s affordable housing crisis. As the report itself admits, the market does not work for “low and moderate income households” or “homeless individuals.”

3.  Missing Strategies

There are a number of valuable strategies that are not included in the report.

A MORE COMPREHENSIVE HOUSING STRATEGY

A truly comprehensive housing strategy for Regina would include the following strategies and definition:  

  • Use the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s definition of Affordable Housing: “The cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income.”
  • Require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Invest all revenue derived from the development or sale of City-owned land in social housing when the rental vacancy rate is below 3%.
  • Actively work with subsidized housing providers to develop more special needs and supportive housing.
  • Introduce rental unit licensing.
  • Seize property that does not comply with City codes, as well as abandoned and boarded-up houses. Repair seized units and convert them to social housing.
  • Deny applications for rental property demolition permits when the rental vacancy rate is below 3%.
  • Pressure the provincial government to pass rent control legislation.

Posted in justice | 3 Comments »

MAKE CANADA A NO DRONE ZONE

Posted by strattof on April 4, 2013

Canada’s military has a $1 billion plan to purchase Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones that can be fitted with missiles and bombs.

Since 2001, U.S. attack drones have killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children.

Canada should not go down the same road.

Make your voice heard:

No to military attack drones!

UNITED STATES’ RECORD

The United States is the leading user of military UAVs, and has used drones for everything from assassination of alleged terrorist leaders to monitoring the U.S./Canada border over places such as Saskatchewan. (Star Phoenix, May 10, 2012)

According to the Toronto Star, the first known killing by an attack drone occurred in November 2001 in Afghanistan. Since then, thousands more people have been killed, from central Asia to the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.

The UK-based Bureau of Independent Journalism reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan alone, of whom between 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. (www.livingunderdrones.org; drones.pitchinteractive.com/)

In 2012, the US had a fleet of some 7,500 drones, up from just 50 ten years ago; over the next ten years, the Pentagon hopes to boost the number of “spy-and-strike” UAVs to over 500. (Toronto Star, Feb 2, 2013)

Almost as staggering as the cost in human lives is the cost in dollars: over the next ten years, annual worldwide spending on drones is expected to reach $11.3 billion, about what the Government of Saskatchewan spends each year on its entire budget. (Toronto Star, Feb 2, 2013; Saskatchewan Budget Documents)

How many lives could be saved around the world if these funds were spent on education, health and the environment, instead of on high-tech ways of killing people?

CANADA’S RECORD

Canada began experimenting with drones in earnest in 2002, and has used UAVs in Afghanistan for surveillance and reconnaissance in support of its combat mission there.

In 2008, Canada announced a $95 million plan to replace its European-made Sperwer drones with leased Israeli-made Heron drones.  This type of drone, used in Israeli Defence Force operations in the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon, supported Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar. (Edmonton Journal, December 28, 2012; Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2008)

Canadian military planners have only grown more ambitious. 

Last August, the Vancouver Province reported on Department of National Defence documents outlining a plan to spend up to $1 billion on UAVs, saying “the military has now relaunched its program to buy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can be outfitted with missiles and bombs.” (Vancouver Province, August 7, 2012)

Canadian military planners have used every excuse from the need for Arctic surveillance to Canada’s participation in the recent air war in Libya to justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a technology that has been used to terrorize civilian populations and exacerbate global conflicts.

Should we be following the US example, investing up to $1 billion in attack drones, UAVs “that can be fitted with missiles and bombs”?

Tell Prime Minister Harper NO TO MILITARY ATTACK DRONES: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211

FURTHER CONCERNS

Personal Privacy:

Some Canadian law enforcement personnel use unarmed drones to conduct surveillance from above Canadian cities.  Abby Deshman of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union asks,  “Where are these being used? Are they going to be used for general surveillance?” (Toronto Star, February 5, 2013)

Should we be under surveillance by drones?

Militarization of Space:

The action of armed and unarmed drones is coordinated using orbiting satellites.  Canada recently launched its first military satellite–Sapphire. Defence Minister Peter McKay says it’s essential to “increasing our ability to protect Canadian and allies’ assets and interests in space.” Those assets include the satellites used to communicate with attack drones. (Montreal Gazette, February 23, 2013)

Should we extend the range of global conflict to the heavens?

Posted in afghanistan, justice | 5 Comments »