New affordable housing project supports larger families

(L to R) MLA Nicole Rancourt, Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody, River Bank Development Corporation manager Brian Howell, MLA Joe Hargrave and CMHC representative Christina Johnson help cut the ribbon Tuesday to mark the completion of construction on six renovated affordable housing units designed for larger families. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

It’s not just small families that need access to comfortable, affordable housing.

For larger families, it can be hard to find something where everyone fits comfortably on a budget. But Tuesday, River Bank Development Corporation celebrated the grand opening of six new affordable housing units designed for that purpose.

Each of the six houses comes with access to support services, features four bedrooms or more, and is renovated with large families in mind.

“There’s a major shortage in the local housing market of houses that size, so we expand on basements, put bedrooms in the basement, install new windows if we need to and just make it so that a larger family can find enough bedrooms for their children,” River Bank Development CEO Brian Howell said.

The six homes celebrated Tuesday will house ten adults and 29 children. The West Flat unit where the celebration was held has five bedrooms and accommodates one of those larger families. Howell estimated a similar house on the open market would be rented for $1,200 to $1,500 per month. River Bank charges $850 per month for the affordable housing unit where the press conference was held.

The grand opening was attended by representatives from all three levels of government, including both MLAs, Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody and a representative from Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

“It’s a pleasure for us to have this opportunity to open up housing for the most vulnerable people we have,” Cody said.

“What we like in the city is a lot of these homes being built or renovated are infill homes, and that just enhances the community. Anytime you see a new construction or renovated construction, the community does well, the street looks better, the people enjoy being here and the neighbours enjoy it as well.”

All six of the new houses were old buildings renovated with the help of provincial and federal funding. While that may lead to greater costs down the road, Howell said it’s easier to find enough grant money for a renovation than for a new build. The West Flat home where the press conference was held was repossessed by Canada Mortage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) before being acquired by River Bank.. River Bank works with community partners such as KidsFirst and Family Futures to support the families so they are able to stay in their homes.

Funding for the renovations was provided by the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation and CMHC.

“It’s nice to see further development for families in need who are hard to house,” said Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, speaking on behalf of Paul Merriman, Minister of Social Services and Minister Responsible for SHC.

Prince Albert Carlton MLA speaks on September 18, 2018 during the ribbon cutting for six newly-renovated affordable housing units designed for larger families. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

“It doesn’t end today. It continues on and we’re very pleased to help that. Everywhere there is a need for this type of housing, and we’re so glad that River Bank Development Corporation … gives (families) the opportunity to have a little bit of space. We think … it gives them a little better grounding.”

NDP MLA Nicole Rancourt was there to show her support for the affordable housing build. The project was built in her riding of Prince Albert Northcote.

“I love coming to these events, especially in Northcote, and seeing families have these opportunities,” she said.

“We know how important affordable housing is for families. The need is really huge. Individuals that have larger families have a harder time finding housing, so having River Bank Development Corporation meeting this need is incredible.”