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Home News River Bank Development opens much needed family residence as part of Homes of Hope

River Bank Development opens much needed family residence as part of Homes of Hope

River Bank Development opens much needed family residence as part of Homes of Hope
River Bank Development Corp. general manager Brian Howell cuts the ribbon on the organization’s fourth Homes of Hope residence, with assistance from Mayor Greg Dionne (left) and Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross (right). Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

River Bank Development Corp. celebrated the opening of the fourth house of an eight house development project on Wednesday, and not a moment too soon.

The new residence in the West Flat will become home to a larger family with three or more children, something River Bank general manager Brian Howell said is sorely needed in Prince Albert.

“For a lot of the affordable housing out there, (large families) don’t qualify for it because there’s just not enough bedrooms in it,” Howell said shortly after the ribbon cutting. I don’t think anybody else is really doing the four to five bedroom (construction) thing.”

Howell said low-income families with several children will take what they can get on Prince Albert’s private housing market. A lot of times that means renting a two bedroom home with an unfinished basement for five or six children.

He expects the housing crunch to get even tighter if economic developments like the new pulp mill begin as planned, and if Prince Albert continues to attract increasing numbers of immigrants and refugees.

“It’s going to put some difficulties and some constraints on housing,” Howell said.

Affordability is a major issue as well. According to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, renters in the Prince Albert area pay, on average, 61 per cent of their income on rent and utilities for a two-bedroom house. For those renting a three bedroom house, that number jumps to 63 per cent.

The index classes paying 30 per cent or less to be affordable. Anything above 50 per cent is considered “severely unaffordable.”

“The larger families are the group that struggles most to find adequate housing,” Howell explained. “If you have a child or two, you can go into an apartment somewhere or into a housing authority, multi-family unit or whatever, but for the big families, this project is really a saviour to them.”

The new home still needs a few finishing touches before a low-income family can move in. Howell said they hope that will be before the end of the month.

The new home is part of the River Bank Homes for Hope project. Roughly one-third of the costs were funded by River Bank, while other levels of government chipped in for the rest.

That includes the City of Prince Albert, which provided a grant to help fund the project. Mayor Greg Dionne said residents have the right to shelter, and the River Bank program helps meet that need.

“Our cities do lack larger family homes, so I do appreciate this one and the other ones,” Dionne said prior to the ribbon cutting. “That was one of the little niches that we missed.”

The provincial government and federal government combined to provide more than $1-million for the Homes of Hope project under the National Housing Strategy.

Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross was on hand to represent the provincial government. She credited River Bank Development Corporation for their hard work and leadership in making a difference in the community.

“The Government of Saskatchewan recognizes that safe and affordable housing contributes to the health and well-being of the province,” she said. “Alongside our community partners, we are working towards our goal of making affordable housing more accessible, and to support families with the greatest housing need.”

River Bank has purchased two more houses for renovation as part of Homes for Hope. The organization is also in the market to purchase two more houses. Howell said they expect to have everything completed by winter.