Saskatchewan outlines housing strategy to help people as prices skyrocket

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REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has outlined an eight-year housing strategy to help potential buyers being pushed out of the market by skyrocketing prices.

The report outlines five steps that include increasing the housing and rental supply and improving affordability.

The average resale price of a home in Saskatchewan has risen more than 83 per cent since 2006 and it's expected to continue to go up, making home ownership tougher.

A chart accompanying the report forecasts this year's average resale value at about $250,000. It was less than $150,000 in 2006.

“The demand has increased pressure not just on supply, but on affordability as well,” June Draude, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Housing Corp., said Monday.

“The pressures can deter growth in our province and it'll negatively impact low- and moderate-income families, as well as our vulnerable citizens if we don't have these homes.”

The report recommends financing options to promote building and new mortgage choices for first-time buyers. It cites a program announced in February in Saskatoon in which the city helps people with down payments.

Draude's strategy also suggests reworking regulations that currently limit development of secondary or “granny” suites, modular or ready-to-move housing.

Another recommendation is that projects specifically aimed at affordable housing be fast-tracked.

Allan Earle, president of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, said the strategy will help communities under pressure.

“It's not just money. Money only solves part of the problem. It's got to be a concerted effort,” said Earle. “We've got to make it happen because there is a tremendous need and that need is just going to get greater and greater and greater as time goes on.”

The Opposition NDP said the strategy “has significant holes.”

Social Services critic David Forbes said it lacks a meaningful monetary commitment and provides little in the way of benchmarks and timelines. Forbes pointed to Alberta's 10-year, $1.3-billion affordable housing plan as an example of concrete commitments.

“We don't see anything like that here. We see a feel-good, platitudes program and I'm really concerned that there should have been much more ... here.”

— BY Jennifer Graham

Organizations: Saskatchewan Housing, Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Alberta

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