Much-needed affordable housing project on the way

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation representative Liane Dagenais and River Bank Development Corporation manager Brian Howell are seen at the site of a six-plex building of affordable housing at 3096 5A Avenue East in Prince Albert that recently broke ground. 

With every passing year, Prince Albert loses more affordable housing, River Bank Development Corporation manager Brian Howell concluded.

 

“Lower income people tend to rent older houses, because they’re less value and cost less so rents are lower, and that kind of housing is always being lost to the market,” he said, singling out fires and demolitions as usual culprits.

On top of that is the constant loss of affordable apartment building stock, with buildings bought up by larger companies who renovate them and hike the rents.

 “They’re looking for tenants who have stable employment and can pay rent from a … monthly debit from their account without any problems, so they’re not really looking for lower income people with all of their struggles,” Howell said.

“We’re actually losing housing for the poorest people.”

This, he explained, is why projects such as the six-plex at 3096 5A Avenue East that recently broke ground are important.

On Friday, a ceremony launched the housing unit, which Howell notes has been about two years in the making.

Of its $725,000 capital cost, the provincial and federal governments banded together to fund $455,000, with the balance funded by the River Bank Development Corporation through mortgage financing and cash equity.

The goal is to bring rental prices in as low as possible -- potentially between $550 and $600 per month.

Even at these well-below average rates, Howell notes that they still might not be low enough to be considered “affordable.”

“Affordable rent is set at 30 per cent of income, so I don’t know whether this will be (affordable) or not – it depends on their situations,” he explained.

To meet the “affordable” level for some people, the River Bank Development Corporation would need an additional guaranteed annual funding source.

Lower income people tend to rent older houses, because they’re less value and cost less so rents are lower, and that kind of housing is always being lost to the market. Brian Howell

The six-plex unit is a first for the River Bank Development Corporation, which has taken over 80 housing units in Prince Albert since 1998.

The building will consist of six units for single people – units of about 560 square feet each, with one tailored to a resident with special needs.

“This property is within walking distance of a grocery store and also provides access to transportation and other amenities,” Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation representative Liane Dagenais said at Friday’s ceremony.

“This is great news for people who need access to affordable housing, and for Prince Albert itself.

“These new homes will contribute to the economic and social well-being of the entire community.”

Howell said that the six apartments, expected to open as early as the end of the year, will fill up quickly.

Although the vacancy rate in Prince Albert hovers around seven per cent, the vacancy rate for social housing is near zero, with any vacancies filled within a few weeks of a tenant leaving.

“There’s a real affordability issue with people at the bottom of the economic scale, whether they’re working people … or they’re receiving help from income support programs,” Howell summarized.

“Projects like this help to change that, and that’s why it’s so important for governments to stay involved to keep things going.”

Organizations: River Bank Development, Prince Albert, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Geographic location: 3096 5A Avenue East

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