New housing strategy from province

By Mac Christie

A new housing strategy released by the province last week will try to increase housing supply and affordability in the province, although the impact on Meadow Lake is unclear.

The eight-year plan would increase supply in both the sale and rental market, and try to bring down prices throughout.

That’s important because over the past five years, the province has seen increased economic growth, which has caused housing costs to rise, said Social Services Minister June Draude in a press release.

Meadow Lake, like the rest of the province, has felt the increase, said Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison.

“We’ve seen an increase in housing prices over the last few years,” he said of the city. “But these are challenges we’d rather be facing than those associated with stagnation and decline that we’ve seen in other parts of the world and other parts of the country.”

Gail Wegner from Meadow North Realty agreed that prices have been on the rise in Meadow Lake.

“Since I started selling real estate nine years ago until now, it’s amazing how prices in town have increased,” she said.

There has been some criticism of the plan for not including rent controls, but Don Allen, president of the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, said he believes the best way to control rent is to increase the supply of rental units.

Allen noted there are 3,000 private rental units being improved across the province, as well as 1,000 more by Saskatchewan Housing.

He added another part of the plan is to help people who are currently renting to purchase a home, thus opening up a rental unit.

To help people with that, the strategy also included an added $5 million in funding to the Affordable Home Ownership program, geared towards first-time home buyers.

But Burlene Laliberte, manager at Meadow Lake Native Urban Housing, said shifting people out of rental units might not be an option here.

“We can’t do any new building in Meadow Lake,” she said. “If people can’t build new houses, they’re renting now and they want to build but they can’t, then they’re still in a rental house.”
Wegner agreed, and while noting anytime something new is announced, it helps, she doesn’t know how the city will be affected.

“I’m not sure with the (infrastructure) issues we’re having in the city, if someone wanted to build, where they could,” she said. “Until we get something figured out with our water and sewer, I’m not sure it will have a direct impact on us.”

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