This week I joined the boss for the opening of the new Monarch Yards housing project.Â It’s a series of really nice apartments and some townhouses which I admit to not liking very much (a lot of stairs) but to each their own.Â I was impressed with the overall concept and the design.
The Saskatoon Housing Authority has allotted suites to those families most in need from a waiting list of some 400 low-income applicants.
“We rank them based on need for housing,” said Jim Wasilenko, general manager of the authority. He says the authority looks at their income level, the existence of overcrowding in their current living situation or their need to move out of substandard housing.
The rental units range from about 800 and 1,400 square feet, including two wheelchair friendly suites.
Average rent is around $650 a month, determined after the authority did a survey of market rent for the area. The rent is 10 per cent below market rent.
The project, which cost nearly $12 million, is the beginning of a host of new affordable housing projects in Saskatoon.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Conservative MP Ed Komarnicki announced $161 million in extra funds to Saskatchewan for low-income housing over two years, $77 million of that money from the province. The $84 million of federal money is part of the federal government’s stimulus package.
I know Jim and have a lot of respect for the Authority but when I heard that they were only 10% below market value, part of me went, “Is that the best we can do?”Â When I got a chance to see how nice the show suites were, I changed my mind as these are spectacular apartments and do not feel at all like any housing project I have ever seen and I am happy to see that it is almost full.Â Not only are they subsidized at just below market value, renters will be able to budget for stable rental rates and not have to worry about unexpected rental increases like so many friends have told me about.
I am a believer in the free market as much as anyone but when your rent is already taking up a huge chunk of your income and it rises without warning, it is tough for anyone to make ends meet.Â Â While subsidized housing isn’t for everyone, it can make a big difference for those who need it.