Sask. government to overhaul subsidized housing programs
Social Services Minister says changes will free up space for those who need it most
The government of Saskatchewan is overhauling its subsidized housing programs in the province's cities. It wants to transition those who live in what's known as "affordable housing" into what is called "social housing".
The government says there are about 2,700 affordable housing units in cities across Saskatchewan. Of those, about half the tenants would pay a lower rent in social housing than they do under the affordable housing program. The other tenants will face rent increases.
The government says the change will make the system simpler and more fair. Right now, it says two tenants making the same amount of money and living in identical units can pay very different amounts, depending on which program they are in.
The government also says there are some tenants living in affordable housing who would not qualify for the subsidy today.
It says at least 15 of those households earn income of $100,000 or more a year and about 90 households bring in $65,000 a year or more. A household is not eligible for social housing if its income is above $50,500 a year.
The opposition said today's announcement is not a good one for people with lower to moderate incomes. David Forbes, the NDP's social services critic, says the province needs more affordable housing, not less.
"There is a real need in Saskatchewan. We think this is really going to affect those people who are in low-incomes, the working poor, who are looking for support in housing needs," Forbes told reporters Thursday at the provincial Legislature.
The Minister of Social Services, Donna Harpauer, says the changes will help those who need it most.
"I'm not sure how you can justify why the taxpayer should supply subsidized housing for higher income individuals and families that can afford the private market," Harpauer told reporters, in response to the opposition's criticism.
The government says no one living in affordable housing now will be asked to move, but those who choose not to transfer to social housing will face rent increases. It has already given notice that rent in affordable housing units will go up by $100 on March 1, 2016.