PA Community Housing breaks ground on new $1.5 million 5-plex, and not a moment too soon for low-income housing advocates

Representatives from Prince Albert Community Housing pose for a photo with guests and dignitaries before breaking ground on a new five-plex low income residence. The building will provide space for five low-income families. It will also mark the start of PA Community Housing’s new Elder in Residence program. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Guests and dignitaries joined members of the Prince Albert Community Housing Society in breaking ground on a new five-plex in the West Flat area that will not only provide affordable housing, but also kickstart a new program.

For the first time, the new five-plex will house an Elder in Residence to help assist and guide the low income families who live there.

“We do believe very strongly in the traditions and the value of culture in peoples’ lives,” incoming PA Community Housing GM Cathi Wilson said after the ground-breaking. “In fact, it’s been studied and many of the people here in Prince Albert have told us that one of the biggest solutions to the challenges facing our Indigenous people in PA is getting back in touch with culture that’s been lost through residential schools and things like that.

“(It’s) very important for truth and reconciliation, but also just in a very, very heart-felt way, to help people connect with who they are.”

Outgoing PA Community Housing GM Linda Boyer said they thought an elder would enjoy being a part of the five-plex community. She envisions the elders doing everything from helping babysit, to connecting families with services they might need.

The new five-plex will cost $1.5 million to build, with $1.1. million coming from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – Saskatchewan Bilateral Agreement under the National Housing Strategy. PA Community Housing will chip in $252,985, plus a land contribution of roughly $29,000.

The City of Prince Albert will provide $25,000 for the development.

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody was on hand to represent the City at the ground-breaking. He said PA Community Housing has always kept their properties in good shape, and that made the City’s decision to partner with them an easy one.

“It’s a great partnership, and one that we very much treasure,” Cody said. “If you don’t have these partnerships, you don’t have this housing, and this housing is very, very needed.”

Construction can’t start soon enough for Boyer and Wilson, who both said Prince Albert faces a severe affordable housing crunch that won’t lessen any time soon.

Boyer said COVID was extremely difficult for a lot of low-income renters, and many haven’t bounced from the toll it took. Without housing units like this new five-plex, she’s worried they won’t have a place to feel safe and secure.

“I’m seeing the rental rates are rising across the province,” Boyer said. “Prince Albert isn’t too bad yet, but it’s coming. There’s a real need for affordable housing in Prince Albert.”

While there were significant concerns about the future, Thursday’s gathering was still a festive one. Wilson said it’s always exciting to see a new housing development. She vowed the property would not only assist low income families, but make the neighbourhood look good too.

“Our maintenance crew is amazing for how well they do look after the properties,” she said. “We really hope they feel pride in themselves and where they’re living. We know that if you (tenants) feel good and if you’re stable and safe, then everything else just comes that much easier.”

The new property is be located at 1901 15th Street West. The building will include four two-bedroom units. Families living there will receive support from the Native Coordinating Council (NCC) and KidsFirst.