Residents tout new Prince Albert Community Housing Society building at Friday grand opening

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, Linda Boyer, Megan Dombrosky, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross and tenant Jason Michel are surrounded by PACHSI employees and board of directors as the ribbon was cut to officially open River Heart Streets on Friday.

River Heart Suites in Prince Albert officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday afternoon.

The complex on River Street celebrated the grand opening of 14 affordable rental homes for persons with disabilities in Prince Albert.

The building originally opened in February of 2021 and Tenant Megan Dombrosky was among the people who moved in, she sees great benefits from the complex.

“It’s enabled me greater independence that I didn’t have otherwise,” she said. “There is the accessibility in the building, the apartment is very spacious, and like I said the neighbors in the building are great. It’s just really nice to have a place to call my own and not have to worry about when am I going to find an affordable, accessible building to live in.”

The units are located at 861 River Street West in Prince Albert and include eight one-bedroom units, of which two are accessible, and six two-bedroom units, of which one is accessible.

A peer support worker from PACHSI is available onsite to provide supports for tenants. Dombrosky said that’s definitely an aspect she appreciates.

“They are still very supportive,” she explained. “Anything we need, any questions we have, they are there. It’s just really good to have that.”

The building is a Prince Albert Community Housing Society Inc. (PACHSI) project, and is geared towards persons with acquired brain injuries and mental, cognitive or physical disabilities.

PACHSI manager Linda Boyer said she started planning it in 2017 and the process was not without complications.

“After a couple of years of back and forth and providing documents that were needed and this and that we finally got our agreement,” she explained. “(We) put it out for contract and then COVID hit, so that was another challenge that we had.

“The general contractor, they were hit off and on. (They had) people down with COVID, so it delayed the project a little bit.”

Boyer said that after they opened in 2021 they were fully occupied within two months, since there is always steady need for this type of housing.”

“By the number of applications that we receive, I know that we could build another one and have it fully occupied,” she said.

Dombrosky was among those who struggled to find proper housing before River Heart Suites opened. She said it was a relief to find a building like this.

“I had to look for a while and then like you are on waiting lists,” she said. “With other corporations, they tend to take a bit longer and when this opportunity came to apply it was rather easy.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Tenant Megan Dombrosky spoke about River Heart Suites during the grand opening ceremony on Friday.

Boyer said that have around 140 rental units and have grown since 2006, with usually one project built per year.

“We are working on another one now and hopefully will be able to announce that towards the end of the year,” Boyer said.

The prayer before the event was done by tenants Thomas McDermott and Jason Michel.

Dombrosky and Michel both spoke about the complex.

This project was made possible in part by an investment of $2.1 million through the Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) Agreement.

The total capital cost of the project is $3.3 million and was made available through the five-year cost-sharing Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) 2014-2019 Agreement with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). All funding provided under the IAH is cost-shared 50/50 by the federal and provincial governments across a broad spectrum of programs.

The Federal Budget 2022 proposes to advance $2.9 billion in funding, on a cash basis, under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, so that all remaining funds from this program will be spent by 2025-26. The government said that will accelerate the creation of up to 4,300 new units and the repair of up to 17,800 units for Canadians who need them most.

“Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion said in a press release.

“Through our government’s National Housing Strategy, we are working hard to improve the living conditions for people with disabilities here in Prince Albert and across the country. Brand new, safe and affordable homes like this are a foundation for good health and prosperity and I know they will make a big difference for over a dozen families. This is the National Housing Strategy at work.”

Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross spoke on behalf of behalf Social Services Minister and Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Lori Carr.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is proud to support this project, alongside our federal and community partners, that allows people with disabilities to live independently in our community,” Ross said.

“Our government will continue to work with the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors to meet our commitment to improve housing affordability and better support people and families in greatest housing need.”

Along with Ross, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne also spoke at the opening.

PACHSI is a non-profit corporation operating in Prince Albert since 1977, with a total housing portfolio of approximately 400 units.

PACHSI will provide support for tenants of these rental units through a peer support worker and by referral from non-profit organizations including Canadian Mental Health Association-Prince Albert Branch, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Our House, Native Co-ordinating Council, Métis Local and other organizations as required.