Every once in a while a really great idea surfaces, the sort of idea where you are left wondering why it had not been thought of before.
A recent housing development proposal unveiled in Yorkton is one of those ideas which looks so logical it’s surprising it hasn’t been done already.
In terms of housing, Yorkton, like almost every major Saskatchewan community, is facing deficiencies, in particular for those on low, and fixed incomes, those who have limited capacity to absorb ever rising housing and rental costs.
Tom Seeley, co-chair of the Yorkton Housing Committee (YHC) said recently a Housing Needs Assessment undertaken by the City showed the issue rather clearly.
The Assessment quickly identified a need, said Sedley, noting as of the time of the survey, the three housing authorities in Yorkton had a total of over 250 on their waiting lists, including lower income families and singles.
Affordability was the key issue. Households having to pay more than 30 per cent before tax income for housing is an issue.
The study identified 1,370 single, including 700 singles under the age of 35 cannot afford an average rent of a bachelor suite, and 170 couple families and 190 lone parent families cannot afford a one bedroom suite.
Seeley added the data is now a year old.
“I would guess it might be worse today, rather than better,” he offered. “… Obviously we have a big gap in housing. We have a lot of work to do.”
The work needed is for some innovative approaches to creating affordable housing.
SIGN and Sask Abilities are looking to partner on an innovative project for the city which would meet some of the need for low income housing in the city.
The new project would address some of the need seen at SIGN, said Andrew Sedley, executive director with the organization. He detailed the proposal calls for 30 units, 20 units for those with long term mental illness, cognitive disabilities and other disabilities. One unit would be for respite care, and nine would be market rentals.
Where the innovation begins is on the main floor which would allow for ‘partnering with business’ with space for business rentals which would subsidize the housing rental units above.
There is clearly a need for retail and office space in Yorkton, and by achieving market rent for the main floor space, those in the apartments above would be buffered in the housing costs they face. It would be a form of subsidy without turning to taxpayers for the dollars.
The second innovation would be a green element with the roof of a building a community garden/green space, said Sedley.
The idea of tenants being able to grow at least a portion of their own food in a rooftop garden makes sense in terms of saving food dollars, and in the broader sense of society looking to reduce its footprint in this world.
Elements such as geothermal heating and even wind power generation are a natural to look into as well.
The idea is one which meets specific low-income housing needs, creates needed retail, and should be as green as a housing development can be. It hits positives on many levels.
Of course there is the cash needed to see it come to fruition. Sedley said they will need at least $1 million in capital, adding that will mean working with business and other groups. “… To make something really creative like this work … We really need partnerships.”
It is to be hoped partners step forward because innovation like this needs to be rewarded by success to the benefit of our community.