Provincial housing program unavailable to city

By Rhonda Cooper

Despite a new housing initiative announced by the provincial government at the end of August, Meadow Lake’s city manager says there is currently no land available on which to develop these affordable housing units.

“We have one parcel of land that has been promised to the Meadow Lake Native Urban Housing,” said Bruno Kossmann. “Development could occur there if for some reason they decide they do not want it.”

The new Head Start on a Home is a provincial housing strategy geared towards the construction of 1000 new affordable homes over the next five years as a means of alleviating the housing crunch.

Builders and developers will be eligible for loans of 90 per cent of the construction cost of the homes, including land, at an interest rate of four per cent. Homes may include condominiums, multi-unit, single family dwellings, modular homes and ready-to-move.

Municipalities will apply for the loans on behalf of builders and developers.

Kossmann added along Larocque Drive on the southeast side of the city are eight lots that, if council wanted, they could consider selling to a developer. But issues with infrastructure means construction could not commence until late 2012 or early 2012.

“Improvements to the Ninth Avenue lift station are on the drawing board and in the plan for next year,” he said. “I would like to see it completed before next year’s summer games.”

Burlene Laliberte, manager of Meadow Lake Native Urban Housing likes the new housing initiative, but is concerned about the timeline.

“I think it is a good program but in Meadow Lake we can’t build until after 2013 because of the city’s infrastructure limitations,” she said. “It would be nice if we could move people from the market rental sector of the housing sector into market ownership. Any time you can move someone into a home, you free up rental space.”

Laliberte added housing is an issue province-wide with a provincial vacancy rate of less than one per cent and the one sector often overlooked in the spectrum is that of a single person. With spaces designated for families, single-parent units or low income earners, single person wage earners tend to be left out in the cold when it comes to finding affordable places to live.

Presently Meadow Lake Native Urban Housing authority has 116 single family units and 28 senior units under its mandate and is not looking to expand their inventory at this time.

Although expansion is not in the near future, Laliberte said they would keep their options open.

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