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
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.
Does the Comprehensive Housing Strategy live up to these principles?
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.
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.