Regina's vulnerable tenants could face greater hardships

Kerry Benjoe (Leader Post) - February 19, 2014


Most delegates at the City of Regina's Housing Roundtable were in agreement about their position on housing.


The biggest concern was what will happen to low income families once federal government funding expires.


Almost all support for social housing is set to expire within the next five years and there are currently no plans to renew any agreements as of yet.


That's an upsetting fact for organizations that work with low-income families.


The federal government currently provides $1.7 billion for social housing, but if current funding agreements are not renewed this will mean a $1.5-billion reduction in federal support by 2019.


Myles Shaw, a local representative for Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada, said affordable housing means so much more than just a place to live.


"Being able to live in a housing co-op meant being able to go back to school," he said.


He said knowing the federal funding may soon end is scary. Shaw is concerned about what will happen to those who suddenly can't afford their rent.


Maynard Sonntag, general manager of Silver Sage Housing Corp., said the end of federal funding would mean changing the way it does business.


At the present time, the housing agency is able to offer affordable housing to its tenants because of the subsidy it receives from the federal government.


If that subsidy is no longer available, it would mean becoming a for-profit business.


Sonntag believes his organization will survive the changes, but said the people most affected will be its vulnerable tenants on fixed incomes. He said Silver Sage would have to charge market rent and be more discerning about to whom it rents its units.


Sonntag does not know where those people would go once that happens. He said municipalities would likely feel the full brunt of the situation because more people would be utilizing services offered by community-based organizations.


Janet Tzupa with the YWCA the organization that operates the My Aunt's Place women's shelter said the situation at the shelter is already dire. Last year, more than 400 clients used the shelter, but more than 1,000 others had to be turned away.


She fears federal cuts would mean more women and children will end up in unsafe situations because the housing market will get even tighter.


"We need to see more transitional homes," said Tzupa. Robert Byers, president and CEO of Namerind Housing Corp., said the majority of its federal funding was eliminated almost a decade ago from $1.9 million to $248,000. The company was able to thrive because it was free to invest and has become a sustainable business.


Byers said the company works with its clients and has fostered a family atmosphere that has been successful.


He suggested the federal government be more open to innovation and not be project specific.


Brian Pincott, a Calgary city councillor and chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities social economic development committee, said in some cases companies like Namerind are able to thrive, but that is not the case with most organizations.


He does believe innovation is part of the solution when it comes to eliminating the housing crunch in Canada, but all levels of government still need to be part of the solution.


Pincott said the FCM will continue to lobby the government to not reduce support for social housing in the country.


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