Feds, province fund local housing program

River Bank Development Corporation executive director Brian Howell (pictured) says the next two years are going to bring change for organizations serving homeless and low-income families. He’s hoping new partnerships, both inside and outside the city, can help bring some stability. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

Prince Albert’s River Bank Development Corporation is one of four Saskatchewan recipients of a combined $4.4 million to deliver affordable housing.

The federal and provincial governments announced the joint funding Thursday. Projects were funded in Regina, Saskatoon, Humboldt and Prince Albert.

“Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” MP Ralph Goodale said in a press release.

“We’re proud to announce … funding for four more affordable housing projects in Regina, Saskatoon, Humboldt and Prince Albert that will make a big difference for many people in these communities.”

Goodale also promised more funding would come. He said the federal government’s first ever national housing strategy will invest $40 billion over the next 10 years to improve availability and quality of housing for Canadians in need.”

Of the $4.4 million, $630,500 was earmarked for River Bank Development Corporation in P.A. to purchase six single-family dwellings for large families in need.

“We’re excited,” said River Bank manager Brian Howell.

“The project we’re working on is purchasing six existing homes in Prince Albert and renovate them to rent them out to larger families. There’s a real need for housing that has more than three bedrooms to accommodate larger families with four or five kids.”

The project is a joint one between River Bank and its partners, including Kids First and Family Futures.

According to Howell, most homes only have three bedrooms, which can be difficult for larger families, especially when their kids get older. It’s even harder to find a larger house that is both decent and affordable.

‘There’s real need. Some of the families we’ve been working with have been living in undersized housing for a number of years.”

With both governments and River Bank contributing funding, it makes the mortgages more affordable. That also brings the rent prince down. Howell said the homes would rent for about the $850 range, compared to a $1,200 to $1,500 per month price point.

“There’s a real, absolute shortage of housing in that price range suitable for larger families, he said.”

As the federal government rolls out its housing strategy Howell said there are a few things he would like to see. He hopes the strategy looks at providing money to repair and maintain existing affordable housing units, while also providing capacity to construct additional units.

“A lot of our working poor families, or people who are on social assistance don’t’ get enough money to be able to afford what’s out there now,” he said.

And for the naysayers who might say the price tag is too much to bear, Howell stressed the importance of having a suitable place to live.

“Many of our children are going to be tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers, teachers and social workers are from lower income families. Many of these families struggle to find an affordable place and a decent place to live. This impacts children’s futures,” he said.

“I think we all have a bit of self-interest in making sure that people have a decent place to live and that their children grow up in a decent, warm comfortable home, and that they have enough to get good food to eat.”