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City considers spreading affordable housing

If the city goes through with this, it will be a tremendous mistake

The City of Saskatoon will likely curtail financial incentives for new affordable rental housing in core neighbourhoods in an effort to spread out social housing throughout the city.

A city committee voted in favour Tuesday of adopting rules that would make it more difficult for affordable housing units to be built in neighbourhoods such as Riversdale and Pleasant Hill, which are already home to much of the city’s affordable housing.

“We are never going to be able to rejuvenate these neighbourhoods unless we get at this at some point,” Coun. Pat Lorje told the city’s planning and operations committee.

The city provides up to 10 per cent of the upfront construction costs for people or organizations looking to build affordable units. If the new rules are endorsed by city council, new units would only receive that incentive if they are not built in core areas that already have a “concentration of affordable housing.”

Lorje has long been a proponent of moving social services and social housing away from the core neighbourhoods. She says neighbourhoods such as Pleasant Hill, Riversdale and Meadowgreen are bearing the burden of social agencies, affordable housing and, consequently, poverty.

But for many involved in affordable housing, the idea of “diluting” social housing is flawed.

“There has to be an understanding of people’s comfort level,” said Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Metis Federation (CUMFI). “We know a lot of these people would not be going across town or downtown to get services. They won’t.”

CUMFI operates nine refurbished apartment buildings in the city’s core neighbourhood that act as shelters and affordable housing for at-risk women and children.

The committee was told operations such as CUMFI would likely be exempt from the new rules because they are able to demonstrate “positive impact on the neighbourhood.” But Isbister says the whole philosophy of moving social services and housing out of the core is based on a false premise that affordable housing is the problem, not the solution to neighbourhood problems such as crime and drug abuse.

Isbister was not at Tuesday’s meeting, but one city councillor echoed her sentiments. “I can’t understand the logic of this,” Coun. Charlie Clark said. “I can’t think of any of (affordable housing projects) that have contributed to the problems you are taking about.”

I am going to side with Shirley Isbister (and organizations like QUINT) on this one while disagreeing with Pat Lorje and the Planning and Operations Committee.  This is a terrible idea and a tragic misunderstanding of the impact of affordable housing.

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