Brian Howell to retire from River Bank Development Corporation

Brian Howell, general manager of the Riverbank Development Corporation. -- Herald file photo

After a lengthy career advocating for affordable housing and homelessness, Brian Howell is retiring as the general manager of the River Bank Development Corporation.

“I’m seventy years old and not getting any younger and it was getting to be time (to retire).” He says. “It’s harder to keep up with work and, and there’s a few other things I wanted to accomplish.”

During his time with the River Bank Development Corporation, Howell was an advocate for affordable housing and homeless in the city of Prince Albert. 

Howell says he has seen the homelessness issue decline in recent years.

“It’s gotten much worse across the country, not only in Prince Albert, there’s increasing numbers in all major cities and smaller cities. It results from things like increasing income disparity.  housing keeps getting more expensive and people don’t have enough money to find a place. When the drugs are much stronger these days, when people are using them, it’s much harder for them to both use and find a place to live. More people who are just struggling with life in general seem to end up on the streets.”

According to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, Prince Albert is ranked as an unaffordable municipality with the average person spending 30-49% of their income on rent and utilities.

Howell says the main issue for renters in Canada is the amount of income inequality throughout the country.

“A single person in almost all the provinces of Canada gets somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 or $800 a month to live on.  That is nowhere near enough to pay rent anywhere. There needs to be more affordable housing and more income equality. Canada has always had really high poverty rates, and income disparity has always been an issue.”

“Over the years, things have improved for certain groups. Back in the 70s for example, Canada’s pension plan in old age really brought a lot of seniors out of poverty.  Over the last few years, the government’s move to increase the child tax benefit, the federal government, has substantially increased child tax benefits.  There’s been some positive things happen. But over the course of the pandemic, of course, there was a lot of inflation (with) food prices and rent prices. As property owners and managers have had to increase our rents just to keep up with the tax increases, which are related to the increased costs of everything to the city.”

Tina Dickson will take over as River Bank Development Corporation’s general manager.