Why worry about water if you’re homeless?
Since we are now into the fall of 2013, it is a good time to take stock of where we are headed in the last third of this year. It is awfully tempting to say the upcoming city referendum on Sept 25 is the biggest political issue in the Queen City these days. But, I have a hunch that everyone who plans to vote already has their mind made up on P3s, so there won’t be many people who are likely to change their vote. Therefore, the referendum isn’t really that interesting.
What is a burning issue though, is the ongoing crisis in affordable housing in this city. Setting aside the great economic growth that is transforming our province, more on this issue at a later date, anybody who has to rent to find a place to live in Regina is definitely feeling the pinch these days. There is simply a lack of available and affordable rental units in this city, and that is all there is to it. The city’s rental vacancy rate remains under 1% – this is a statistic that speaks loudly for itself.
Should anything be done to end the shortage? The answer is a resounding yes. If action isn’t taken soon to end the shortage, Regina could develop an ugly reputation as being an extremely unaffordable place to live. In other words, Regina risks losing out on future population growth and potential economic opportunities if a growing number of people are unwilling to move here because they can’t afford the local cost of living.
There are solutions that need to be considered. First off, rent control is not a solution to the lack of affordable housing here. All rent control will do is make the problem worse because the cap will not create more rental units, but will instead result in more rental units being removed from the market.
A short-term solution is for the provincial government to start building more social housing units. This move would create more spaces and force down rents. But, in order to prevent new social housing units from becoming run down, these units will have to be made available on a ‘rent-to-own’ basis. A long term solution is for someone in the private sector to start selling trailer homes in or near Regina. Trailer homes sell for under $200,000 these days in the Regina area, which is much less than the average local house price of about $311,000. The availability of a growing number of trailer homes in Regina would force down the average house price in Regina in a hurry.
In the meantime, renters in Regina will have to “grin and bear it,” as the old saying goes. Our elected politicians seem to be in no rush to bring a quick end to this problem. The best that we can do in the meantime is to get in contact with our MLAs about the crisis.