Door opens at four new Riverbank houses

Riverbank Development Corporation general manager Brian Howell (centre) gets some help cutting the ribbon at the official opening of four new low-income housing units in Prince Albert. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

After two years of planning and construction, Riverbank Development Corporation (RDC) has unveiled four newly renovated homes as part of their plan to provide more affordable housing in the city.

On Monday, dignitaries and government representatives gathered in Prince Albert’s West Flat neighbourhood to celebrate the end of the $687,000 project, which saw four homes in the area purchased and renovated for use by low-income families.

All of the new units have a minimum of four bedrooms, and will be rented out by Riverbank at $800 a month.

RDC general manager Brian Howell said they’ve noticed a strong demand for more affordable housing that wasn’t being met, especially for larger families.

“Many of them are paying $1,200 to $1,300 for housing that is quite unsuitable,” he explained. “It’s older, not cared for, (and) often in poor condition.”

The four new homes will be rented out for $800 a month. Howell said a similar home would be rented for roughly $1,200. He added that houses, unlike apartments, will often house the same family for years.

The new units will provide housing for up to 8 adults and more than 20 children.

Howell said they’re always a feeling of relief once a housing project is completed, and this one is no exception.

Riverbank has owned and developed properties across Prince Albert, but chose four units in the West Flat because they were cheaper to purchase.

“There’s really a feeling of satisfaction to have it done and to get through the grand opening in one piece,” he chuckled.

The provincial and federal governments chipped in with $440,000 in support, which marks roughly two-thirds of the project’s funding. Riverbank provided the remaining $247,000.

“The biggest problem is the funding aspect,” Howell said. “The $800 a month does not cover the cost of this house, so if the governments aren’t involved with some funding to reduce capital costs, then it’s just not possible to do.”

All four homes already have families ready to move in by the end of May. Those families were put forward at the suggestion of KidsFirst and Family Futures. They had to be living in housing that was either unsuitable or unaffordable, and also have a good track record of maintaining their home.

Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave was in attendance for Monday’s grand opening on behalf of Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

Hargrave said it’s encouraging to see more affordable housing units going up in Prince Albert, especially for large families, and added that the province’s current financial hardship wouldn’t prevent them from supporting similar projects in the future.

“This is really important,” he said. “The vulnerable in our society continue to be a priority for the government, so projects like this, they must continue to go on and our government is committed to that.”

@kerr_jas •