Giving people housing circumvents traditional notions about governmental spending
Housing should be a concern, not only to the homeless or ones that cannot find rent, but for everyone. People having a place to live funnels down into less policing costs due to reduction in crimes, less health care costs due to people having an increase of quality of life, and an overall better society because housing is a platform for those homeless to catapult themselves into employment or education.
Historically, housing hasn’t always been easy to find, even for those who can afford rent, because vacancy rates within Regina have fluctuated. According to a study done by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, vacancy rates stood at 0.5 per cent at the end of 2008, which led to families sharing small homes within North Central Regina. However, from Oct. 2012, vacancy rates have increased steadily, currently sitting at 4.8 per cent today, which is well above the satisfactory rate of 3 per cent. The reason for this increase can be attributed to many municipal tax breaks and capital incentives that are illustrated by the City of Regina’s housing strategy, some of which include increase of capital incentives for builders of affordable housing from $10,000 to $15,000 per unit.
However, even with those incentives and a higher vacancy rate, certain demographics such as large families or single individuals are having a difficult time finding a place to live, especially in the North Central or Heritage areas. In accordance, at the beginning of the month, the city has announced it will consider streamlining the incentive policies to gear more towards North central and Heritage areas of the city.
I believe that the city should realign its incentive policies to gear more towards areas such as North Central and Heritage to accommodate demographics of most need. Although the high vacancy rate may suggest that there are places to live, sheer statistics are not completely representative of reality. In addition, I encourage the city to continually monitor and review its housing incentive policies to be responsive to the needs of our community. People that are looking for housing, with sufficient funds to do so due to their employment, should have sufficient housing to live a fruitful life.
The city’s policy-driven housing initiative has had a positive outcome on the vacancy rate. I believe that the government can also write policy for those that cannot pay rent, those who are homeless facing the daily struggles of climate and famine. In Medicine Hat, they’ve been able to eliminate homelessness by implementing “Housing First,” a policy that gives rapid shelter to the homeless, already implemented in certain US cities. Since instilling Housing First, 885 homeless people have been housed into a new home.
Naturally, critics of such programs will cry that the government shouldn’t be a welfare state that gives a free hand. However, I don’t think that argument is a strong one in the housing context. Government’s goal should be to find policies to help its citizens while not running the bank. Housing First achieves this goal, to an incredible extent that it circumvents the traditional notion that government programs are a burden to the economy. In Charlotte, since the Housing First Program was implemented, 85 homeless adults that received shelter from Housing First experienced 78 per cent decrease in arrests, 372 fewer days in a hospital and spent $1.8 million less on health care costs. In Seattle, participants of Housing First program on average spent much less on state programs, seeing a drop from $4,066 to $1,492.
This city must take an approach that ensures its citizens have one of the three basic tenants of life – shelter. The benefits of this would give people an opportunity to live a fruitful life and decrease governmental costs. Let’s give people a place to live, enable those in need, and pave the road to a fruitful life and prosperity for all citizens.