Monday September 01, 2014

EDITORIAL - Housing makes Throne Speech list


In terms of living a reasonable life, two things are paramount, food on the table, and a safe and secure home to live in.

When it comes to housing, it has been a growing area of concern across much of Canada in recent years as prices climb beyond a growing segment of the populations’ ability to pay.

When housing prices outstrip what many can afford, people can be left scrambling to find affordable alternatives which provide the basic need for safety and security.

As a result the availability of affordable housing has been an issue of concern for various groups in Yorkton the last number of years.

It is an issue of sufficient concern the City of Yorkton created its own Housing Committee to look at options, and that committee’s work continues as they try to seek out ways to fill gaps in housing in our city.

At a recent panel discussion hosted by the Yorkton branch of the Canadian University Women’s Association (CUWA) on housing with a particular focus on the need of middle income seniors, Ron Skinner, co-chair of the City’s Housing Committee said they are looking “at the whole housing continuum.”

Skinner said the needs of middle income seniors is just another housing concern to be added to an already long list.

“There are so many social housing needs within the city that need to be addressed,” he said. “There’s a lot more demand than there is supply.”

Government is often looked to for the answer in terms of affordable housing, but as Skinner pointed there is only so far government investment can go in housing.

“The amount of money government has compared to the demand that is there — there’s a total imbalance there,” he said.

But there are some positives, as were laid out in last week’s Throne Speech in Regina.

“My government has committed $344 million to expand the housing supply by 12,600 units and repair or update about 24,000 units by 2016,” read The Honourable Vaughn Solomon Schofield Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan in delivering the speech .

“Last year, Saskatchewan led the nation in housing starts on a per capita basis.

“The total number of rental starts in 2011 and 2012 exceeded the number of rental starts in the previous 16 years combined.

The building is having an impact, although some will say it is not enough, and therein lies a conundrum for government, how to ensure everyone has reasonable housing at a reasonable price? In a growing economy where land values, building supplies and tradespeople all cost more, the question becomes even more difficult to answer.

Still, the Throne Speech noted, “this activity is leading to an improvement in vacancy rates.

“Saskatchewan now has an overall vacancy rate of three per cent, a level recognized as representing a balanced market situation.

“However, vacancy rates in some communities are still too low.

“This is why my government will broaden the HeadStart on a Home program to encourage the construction of rental properties.

“Since its creation in 2011, HeadStart on a Home has provided more than $193 million to finance the construction of 1,159 entry level homes.”

And those attending the CUWA panel discussion should be happy that the government is at least making a move to accommodate senior housing needs.

“In order to maintain their independence, seniors with low to moderate incomes often wish to sell their homes and move into housing that is more affordable and easier to maintain,” detailed the Throne Speech.

“Life lease housing programs provide affordable and suitable housing for seniors along with security of tenure for a lifetime.

“In the next few months, my government will renew and expand the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation’s Life Lease Program to improve housing options for seniors across Saskatchewan.”

The programs outlined in the Throne Speech will not be the answer for affordable homes for everyone.

But it is a piece to a complicated puzzle which will require innovative ideas and a multi-faceted, cooperative approach to address moving forward.

The province cannot finance the solution for all, but it at least seems willing to be part of the solution, and showed that with the Throne Speech.



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