Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

NATIONAL HOUSING DAY, NOVEMBER 22 2014

Posted by strattof on November 22, 2014

WHAT’S CHANGED IN REGINA SINCE LAST YEAR’S NATIONAL HOUSING DAY? 

The short answer to this question is VERY LITTLE!

 THE GOOD NEWS

  • Regina’s rental vacancy rate has improved, rising from 1.8% to 5% over the last year. (A 3% rate is considered normal.)

THE BAD NEWS

  • Rents too have increased. For example, rent for a two- bedroom apartment increased by 7% between 2012 and 2013 and by 3.2% between 2013 and 2014. As a result, most rental housing is still unaffordable.
  • Many Regina families still have to choose between paying the rent and buying food.
  • Many people are still living in unsafe, overcrowded, and unsanitary

HOUSING IN REGINA: 10 KEY FACTS

  1. In 2009, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina was $636. Today, it is $888, an increase of $252 or 39%.
  2.  Over the same period, the minimum wage went up by 10%.
  3.  Today, a full-time minimum wage worker in Regina earns $21,542 a year or $1,795 a month.
  4. A minimum wage earner cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment. “Affordable housing” as it is defined by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation costs 30% or less of household income.
  5. 20% of Regina households live in “core housing need,” meaning they can’t find a home that costs less than 30% of their household income, that has enough room for its occupants, or that doesn’t need major repairs.
  6. Between April 2013 and 2014, the number of one-bedroom apartments in Regina decreased by 91. In the meantime, Regina’s population increased by more than 4,000.
  7. In 2014, Regina also lost 88 units of affordable rental housing. First, the provincial government sold 40 units of affordable rental housing to help fund another affordable housing project. Then, rather than make an investment of an additional $200,000, the provincial government allowed the developer of that project, Deveraux Developments, to walk away from its commitment to build 48 units of affordable rental housing.
  8. In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, over 3,400 people used Regina’s shelter services.
  9. Many others double bunked, couch surfed, or lived in over-crowded unhealthy conditions. Some even lived in cars or garages. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.
  10. Today, Regina’s shelters are filled to capacity.

MAKING CHANGE: SOLVING REGINA’S AFFORDABLE RENTAL 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.

The private sector is not going to solve the rental housing crisis. To make real change, we need leadership from and intervention in the housing market by all levels of government. 

CITY COUNCIL

  • In September, City Council changed the definition of affordability as it applies to its housing incentives policy under which the city offers developers of rental housing a capital incentive of $15,000 per unit. Now, affordability is defined as “30% of gross income” ‒ the conventional definition of affordability. Kudos to Regina City Council for taking a step in the right direction. Developers are used to receiving a $15,000 per door subsidy for putting up market rate rental housing. What will motivate them to build truly affordable housing?
  • City Council can require developers to include truly affordable housing in their plans or, alternatively, pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • City Council should develop a program to build 100 new units of affordable rental housing a year, with matching funding from the province.
  • Safe, secure, and decent housing is a human right. To meet this obligation, the city must implement rental unit licensing.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

  • The provincial government must build 88 affordable rental housing units to make up for the units lost in 2014.
  • It should also commit to working with the city to provide 100 new units of affordable rental housing a year.
  • The province should also introduce rent control legislation.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

  • The federal government must develop a long-term national affordable housing program, involving all levels of government.
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