The Yorkton Housing Committee has been active for about 18-months, and it is proving to be an effective tool in spurring housing developments in the city to meet recent demand.
That was the message set forth at a media round table with Yorkton Mayor James Wilson and committee co-chairs Tom Seeley and Ron Skinner.
Wilson said the meeting at City Hall was called as a way to let people know what the committee has been doing.
“We just want to keep the public informed,” he said.
Wilson said Yorkton Council established the committee after “realizing the situation that existed in our community in terms of housing.”
Wilson said the committee was tasked to “create a housing plan for the city,” one which looks at the issue over the long term, adding the plan is “going to prepare us for the future.”
Seeley said the plan is the cornerstone of their efforts.
“It’s one thing to have identified the needs, but then you have to have a plan,” he said, adding each year they will create a one-year business plan to keep the committee focused on immediate goals.
Skinner said the establishment of the committee coincided closely with the unveiling of the province’s Headstart program, which allowed the local committee to quickly respond to the program.
“We were leaders,” he said, adding one of the earliest projects under the program was green-lighted for Yorkton.
With Headstart homes now under construction, or planned for Fifth Avenue Estates Good Spirit Crescent, the old CJ Houston School property and the York Colony development, Skinner said “it’s all been very progressive.”
Seeley said the committee has played a role in working with developers, in a sense screening them, to see who best fits to undertake Headstart homes.
In general terms Seeley said the committee sees working collaboratively with business and others interested in the issue of housing is an important thrust of what they do.
“We’re open to the community … to hearing ideas … concerns,” he said.
Seeley added they are also keenly interested in meeting with people who have ideas of how to address some of the shortfalls in housing …
“We’re really, really open to the community to come in with their concerns and more importantly their solutions.”
Skinner said it goes beyond Headstart homes, adding the committee is working with various potential developments including rental apartment spaces. He said there are two six-plexes and a 24-unit building under way which will have rentals, and added “I know of two others” which if they proceed could add an additional 100 rental units. He said they will “probably be forthcoming in the coming months.”
Seeley said rental units will become more of an issue over the long term if housing costs continue to rise.
“Increasingly the supply of rental housing will be an issue,” he said.
And there will be a need for subsidized housing too, said Seeley.
Some sectors of the community, even as market value rentals are available are “probably never going to be able to make it.”
As it stands rental housing remains in tight supply in the city. Skinner estimated vacancy rates were under two per cent, adding “I don’t see it changing dramatically in the next little while.”
It’s a case of the committee being aware of the whole continuum of housing needs, from subsidized housing for those needing it, through rental spaces, first time homeowner houses and even the high-end home for professionals moving to the city, said Wilson.
“We’re looking at all aspects of the housing continuum,” echoed Skinner.
Adding to the work of the committee is that its trying to spur housing developments for more than catching up to recent demand.
“The problem is (in terms of housing) we are continuing to have an influx of people coming into the city,” said Skinner.
Seeley said there is no single solution to housing needs in Yorkton.
“What we have to keep doing is being as innovative and creative as we can,” he said.