Saskatoon

NDP asks about province's plans to sell off low-income housing

Saskatchewan's Opposition wants to know if the government is looking to sell off low-income housing units to help balance its books.

Opposition wants to know how many units being sold

Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor says the government will be selling and repurposing some of its 18,000 units. (CBC News)

Saskatchewan's Opposition wants to know if the government is looking to sell off low-income housing units to help balance its books.

The government owns about 18,000 units through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.

According to officials, it has been government policy to sell units which have been vacant for at least six months and are deemed to no longer be needed.

NDP urges caution

But Saskatchewan NDP MLA Ryan Meili says the government should be cautious before selling too many units.

At the legislature on Monday, Meili said it could be difficult to get back any housing that is sold, adding that markets and public needs change.

"We might have a period of vacancy right now, that doesn't necessarily mean that will persist," said Meili.

"And it also takes away the flexibility of doing anything more interesting with housing, like housing first projects."

Saskatchewan NDP MLA Ryan Meili says the government should be cautious about selling too many low-income housing units. (CBC News)

'Chronic vacancies' in some areas, says minister

The government said 600 units have been sold since 2003, adding that housing that is no longer needed is sold at fair market value.

Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said there were "chronic vacancies" in some rural Saskatchewan communities with less than 300 people.

"Those are some that we will look at selling, if we can sell them at all," said Beaudry-Mellor.

"But we would certainly like, if they are going to be chronically vacant as they continue to be, we'd like to get rid of those for sure."

Some units could be repurposed

She added that the government was also considering repurposing some of its units.

The province has also been approached by municipalities that want to expand the criteria attached to the housing so it can be opened up for professionals such as nurses or teachers, said Beaudry-Mellor.

She said she did not have a number for how many of the 18,000 units the government might want to sell.

"We're looking at the whole portfolio and seeing if there's potential there to right-size, repurpose, refocus," said Beaudry-Mellor.

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger