City of Regina answers concerns about proposed affordable housing project in northeast

·6 min read
A proposed affordable housing project slated to appear before executive committee later this month and then city council was the subject of a virtual meeting Wednesday night.  (Kirk Fraser/CBC - image credit)
A proposed affordable housing project slated to appear before executive committee later this month and then city council was the subject of a virtual meeting Wednesday night. (Kirk Fraser/CBC - image credit)

The City of Regina has informed over 100 residents and interested parties that it will be taking steps to introduce a new affordable housing project in the city's northeast.

Many of those in attendance at a virtual meeting on Wednesday night were concerned about the project. Many said they were concerned for their personal safety, as well as people in the neighbourhood they perceived as vulnerable..

Last July the city was awarded $7.75 million from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to help build 29 affordable housing units. The housing units would be for those transitioning away from homelessness and reintegrating into the community.

Since then city administration has worked to identify a location that could work for the project in Regina.

In December it was announced the site would be located at 120 Broad Street, near Imperial Community School and a seniors care home.

A few weeks later, on Dec. 24, Ward 7 Coun. Terina Shaw stated on social media that while she knew about the project's existence, she had no idea the project would be moving into her ward.

On Wednesday, she reiterated that point and called for better consultation with her going forward about the project.

"I'll be honest, that was a miss on the administration," city manager Chris Holden said during the meeting.

"We should have included you at a time where you would have had information ahead of the discussion occurring in the community."

The decision to put the affordable housing space at 120 Broad Street was made in early December, the City of Regina's manager for social and cultural development Emmaline Hill told CBC News.

Hill said part of the decision stemmed from the fact the site was already correctly zoned, which saved the city time and allowed for it to find a site for the 29 homes within the federal government's timeline to use the allocated funds.

The site was also chosen, she said, due to its proximity to services and amenities, as well as transit and community resources.

The location was also among over 20 other locations considered by city administration before being settled on, Hill said.

Coun. Shaw, who attended Wednesday night's meeting, was also particularly concerned about the lack of consultation from city administration before the decision was made to locate the project within her ward.

She and others who participated in Wednesday's meeting called for better consultation with the city before decisions affecting her or other council members' wards were made.

The city manager admitted Shaw and other parties could have been involved more in the consultation process leading up to the final decision to locate the affordable housing facility.

Other city officials who participated in Wednesday's meeting noted the virtual event was the start of the consultation process, as spelled out on the city's website for the project.

Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens said the project was a tremendous step forward for the city, which is working to reduce homelessness — a social issue he sees on the rise in Regina — through a variety of strategies and measures.

"This fits into the overarching plan to end homelessness. This is an incredible step in the right direction," Stevens said.

"We need more. This is the kind of project that we need in other parts of the city. We need more of them."

Among those adding voices to concerns was Regina-Qu'Appelle Conservative MP Andrew Scheer.

He said he was concerned about the fact the city only felt it needed to make those within a 200 metre radius of the proposed site aware of Wednesday's meeting.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Given the location was near Imperial Community School, which features a large field and likely has students with parents who live outside that radius, he said it was "common sense" that a wider consultation radius should be considered in the future.

Organizations answer concerns

People who commented on Coun. Shaw's social media post raised concerns about the affordable housing site's proximity to a school and seniors care home.

On Wednesday, commenters who joined the virtual meeting frequently asked about drug use, residency percentages and raised concerns about mentally unstable individuals possibly residing at the home.

Stevens said he saw many of the concerns raised by residents before the meeting as valid — as any concern raised by a city resident to city councillor would be.

But he also saw many "textbook" comments and concerns from people somehow implying those who live in the affordable housing units would be responsible for the affected neighbourhood "falling into shambles" or "needles being found everywhere."

"I think the reality now in Regina is that there are mental health issues and addictions issues present all over the place," Stevens said.

"There's no neighborhood in this community that's immune to it."

He said the best part about the public consultation process with any project is the chance to interact with the community and answer concerns with facts.

Regina Treaty and Status Indian Services was tasked with overseeing the management of the affordable housing facility through a selection process that closed off last September.

Executive Director Erica Beaudin attended Wednesday's meeting and answered questions and concerns raised by those in attendance about the facility, particularly around those who would live there.

She said the facility would only be open to those involved in Regina Treaty and Status Indian Services programming in some way and those clients would require case management plans in order to be allowed to live at the site.

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

Those potential clients, she said, would be those looking to transition away from situations where they do not have a stable enough income to provide themselves with a safe environment to live — like people who find themselves in "couch-surfing" situations.

"The residents living in this supportive housing, they will have experienced barriers; however it is a misconception to say that they're all addicted or have mental health issues," Beaudin said.

"That is not the case. That may be part of the issue but even if it is part of their issue and their barriers, they will have moved beyond that stage and they will not have that as their main obstacle and barrier toward independence."

Beaudin said those in the residence wouldn't be transient. Rather, they would be living at the facility for at least a year — as long as it would take them to find stable housing on their own.

The next stage for the project is to move to the city's executive committee for reporting at the end of January, and then eventually to city council for approval.

The city website for the project states the planning and design of the facility would take place through the spring, with construction to follow and a planned opening in December of 2022.

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