Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sell-off of Moose Jaw’s family housing units: An option to be resisted

By Don Mitchell
December 21, 2012

The unilateral announcement by Saskatchewan Housing Corporation that they will sell 114 of Moose Jaw Housing Authority’s 124 single detached family housing units is counter-productive and wrong. The plan to move the affected families into large apartment projects is also laced with challenges.

These houses were planned and constructed in Moose Jaw neighbourhoods almost 60 years ago through an agreement between the city, the province and the federal government. Most of the funding was not provincial but federal through CMHC. A December 1952 Times Herald headline; “First Group of Homes To Be Ready in February” stated that 75 houses were being built under a city-provincial-federal agreement. “Houses under the tripartite plan are being constructed on South Hill, on the city’s east side and in the northwest section of Moose Jaw.” The houses opened in 1953 at an average rent of $42 per month.

These houses were paid for by tax dollars from all three levels of government. They are not the private property of Saskatchewan Housing Corporation to liquidate as a result of some bad advice and bad politics. For sixty years they’ve been rented to family tenants on a point system based on needs and accessible only to lower income applicants. The houses have served the community well. They’ve provided thousands of young families a head-start and they’ve always had waiting lists of needy and enthusiastic families. They remain a scarce and vital community resource -not a commodity to be auctioned off to the highest private bidder

The plan to forcibly move families from single detached homes in Moose Jaw neighbourhoods to multiple family apartment projects will be a set-back for the affected families and for the Moose Jaw Housing Authority. There is neither available land nor appropriate zoning in existing older neighbourhoods to accommodate large apartment projects. Available land for such projects is only on the periphery of the city, far from schools and other neighbourhood services. In other cities these larger public housing developments have become stigmatized, ghettoized and isolated from the larger community which surrounds them. This is likely to happen here.

Apartment complexes are much more difficult for public housing authorities to manage and maintain public safety. In contrast to free standing family homes with yard and garden space, these apartment complexes will not have sufficient common areas or green space for healthy family living. Sask. Housing’s Request for Proposals calls for bare-bones design and construction.

Moose Jaw is very lucky among Saskatchewan cities to have a proportionately larger family housing rental stock successfully integrated into mixed neighbourhoods and dispersed throughout the city. We have an excellent history of service in public housing. Now is not the time to turn our backs on this legacy and create an approach to service which is isolating, dangerous and limiting to the healthy growth of children and families.

Please let your voices be heard on this issue. A community forum is being planned for later January.  

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