Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

NO ROOM AT THE INN

Posted by strattof on December 21, 2014

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. 

  • The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $888, hardly affordable for a full-time minimum wage worker earning $1,795 per month. The commonly accepted definition of “affordable housing” is housing that costs a household 30% or less of its income.
  • A growing number of Regina citizens are forced to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries.
  • In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, over 3,400 people used one or more of Regina’s shelter services.
  • Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in over-crowded unhealthy conditions. Some even lived in cars.
  • Today, the city’s shelter system is filled to capacity.

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Safe, secure, and 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. 

CITY OF REGINA

►Until recently, the city offered developers a capital incentive of $15,000 per unit to build market rate rental housing. Now, developers who take the subsidy will be required to rent the units at an affordable rate: 30% or less of household income. 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 affordable housing?

PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN

In 2014, Regina 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.  

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

In 1973, the federal government instituted a national affordable housing program which, for the next decade, created 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. 

WHAT REGINA CITY COUNCIL CAN DO

  • Require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Develop a program to build 100 new units of affordable rental housing a year, with matching funding from the province.
  • Identify empty buildings that can be converted into affordable housing units and fund their renovation.
  • Implement rental unit licensing in order to meet the human rights obligation to provide safe, secure, and decent housing.

WHAT THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT CAN DO

  • Build 88 affordable rental housing units to make up for the units lost in Regina in 2014.
  • Commit to working with the city to provide 100 new units of affordable rental housing a year.
  • Allocate 3% of all natural resource royalties to affordable housing.
  • Introduce rent control legislation.

WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN DO

  • Develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!!

MAKING ROOM AT THE INN: TAKE ACTION

During the holiday festivities, take the time to advocate for affordable rental 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 affordable rental housing crisis.

 

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