Saskatchewan

U of Regina selling 'mansion' that presidents lived in, rent-free

The University of Regina is preparing to sell the home it has owned since 1991 in order to free up some cash during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former student union president says news is being met with support and shock

The home at 1001 McNiven Ave. was purchased by the University of Regina in June 1991, and was used as an incentive for incoming presidents. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

The University of Regina is preparing to sell a home it has owned since 1991, in order to free up some cash during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The house at 1001 McNiven Ave. had served as a home for the president of the U of R to live in, rent-free.

The nearly 4,000-square-foot home, with five bedrooms and five bathrooms, also had a $100,000 maintenance budget, paid for by the university. Estimated taxes on the property for 2020 are $8,525.08, according to the City of Regina's website.

"We have no interest in buying a new replacement house and that wouldn't be part of the package on offer for an incoming president," said Dave Button, vice-president of administration for the university.

The home had served as an incentive for incoming presidents at a time when the housing market lacked the choice it does now.

It wasn't a free-ride for the president, though, Button said. It was assessed by the Canada Revenue Agency as a taxable benefit, in excess of $30,000 per year, he said. 

He says there had been plans to sell the home prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It just makes good economic sense, and it makes sense for for the future president to … have their own choice."

There is an opportunity now to sell the home, since it is vacant. Vianne Timmons, who lived in the house while she was U of R president, is now president of Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The house, built in 1965, has an assessed value of $875,100, of which $700,000 is taxable.

A listing price hasn't been finalized but Button says it may sit around $775,000. It's expected to be on the market by the end of May.

Up to $100,000 from a potential sale could go toward a student bursary for those affected by COVID-19, Button said. Money used for yearly maintenance will remain in university coffers.

The 3,801-square-foot home has five bedrooms and five bathrooms. It's expected to be listed on the market at the end of the month. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

News of the upcoming sale of the home has been met with both support and shock, as some people didn't know the president was provided such an incentive, according to Kent Peterson, former president of the University of Regina Students' Union.

He has advocated for the residence's sale for years.

"Someone made the decision, for many years to — instead of investing in students — give a free mansion to someone who can afford their own mansion," Peterson said.

He said he would've liked to see the money and assets utilized in other ways, such as hiring faculty, freezing or lowering tuition, or providing an emergency bursary.

With files from Ethan Williams

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