Sunday, 14 July 2013

More Rooming House Information

Below is the text from a document that was created as a fix/solution to the Regina Housing Crisis and Rooming Housing Debate. I like what is included in it, and hopefully the City of Regina is paying close attention to it. Enough of patting each other on the backs (read: City scratching developers backs and vice versa), it's time to get on with truly addressing this situation!

Rooming Houses in Regina

The rooming house issue in Regina is part of a much larger global phenomenon, to properly
understand its origins we need to first understand the larger context.

Regina in Context

In June 2013 Regina had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, 3.5%.1 For the past few
years Regina has consistently had one of the ten lowest unemployment rates in the western
world.2 In 2012 Regina had the second fastest economic growth in the country at 4.5%, just
behind Edmonton. We have the 4th highest per capita income $44,662 behind Calgary,
Edmonton and Ottawa.3 These realities are drawing thousands of people from all over the world
to our city.

Population Growth and Housing

Officially the population of Regina grew by 3.2%4 in 2012, three times the national average and
second only to Saskatoon. Unofficially, as people in the statistical field can tell you, the population
has been growing faster than official metrics.

Between 2005 and 2012 the vacancy rate dropped from about 4% to about 1%. In that same
time the average price of an existing house went from $122,184 to $301,145 an increase of
almost 250% in just 7 years.5

Rapid population growth driven by rising levels of prosperity has created a housing shortage.
This housing shortage will only be eliminated by either quashing prosperity or by increasing the
supply of housing. Quashing prosperity is not a politically popular option, which leaves the only
remaining option; increasing the supply of housing.

The supply of housing can be increased two ways:

1) Increase the number of dwellings. This is already being done, housing starts in the city are up
350% from 2005-20126.

It will, in the short term, be difficult to further accelerate the pace of housing construction in light of the labour shortage.

2) Increase the number of people per dwelling. There is significant surplus space within Reginas existing housing stock. The following graph shows that the number of people per dwelling has fallen by about 50% since the 1930s; this has happened despite newer houses being significantly larger than older houses. Neighborhoods such as Hillsdale and Whitmore Park, which were constructed in the 1950s and 60s, were built during a time in which it was normal to have a third more people living in a house than there are today.

1 Saskatchewan Labour Force Statistics, May 2013
2 US Bureau of Labour Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics.
3 Conference Board of Canada, Metropolitan Outlook Spring 2013
4 CANSIM 0510046
6 Saskatchewan Economic Review 2012

The Solution to Regina’s Housing Crisis

In the long term, the housing crisis will be solved by increasing the number of dwellings, however, in the short term, the number of people per dwelling must go up to satisfy the housing needs of the population. Failure to increase the population density will result in slower economic growth, homelessness and their associated social ills.

Increasing the number of people per household will provide many benefits, most of which are covered in the document Transforming Regina, Planning for 2040 and Beyond. Rooming houses are the solution to Reginas housing shortage!

The Whitmore Park and Hillsdale Community Associations

The Whitmore Park and Hillsdale community associations have recently written a letter to the City of Reginas administration outlining their concerns regarding manifestations of the housing shortage in their neighbourhoods.

These neighbourhoods feel the effects of the housing shortage more acutely than other neighborhoods due to their proximity to the university and its 13,113 students. 7 The University does not have sufficient on-campus housing to accommodate the student body. The citys transit system is anemic due to 60 years of automobilecentric development and there are insufficient parking spots to support a large commuting population. These factors force many students to live in nearby neighbourhoods so that they can easily access the campus via active transport methods.

To combat what the community associations perceive to be the problem of rooming houses they have proposed a new tax be levied on all properties which provide housing for nonfamily members. The revenue this regressive tax generates is to be used to enforce new regulations and subject homeowners to invasive searches of their private homes.

The community associations propose to put an arbitrary cap of 2 rooming units in a dwelling. This limit would restrict the supply of rental units without regard to the actual size and capacity of the dwelling, and would render homeless anybody currently living with more than two people.

We feel this will be a disaster. The effect of new taxes and regulations on rental spaces will be to reduce the supply of rental spaces at exactly the time they are most needed.

A better solution is to encourage a larger number of people to rent out rooms in their homes, thus providing renters with a greater diversity of housing options and preventing the massive overcrowding that has appeared in a few isolated instances. By diffusing people across a larger area the concerns of the community associations will be ameliorated.

Nobody wants to live in a cramped overcrowded environment, but people are doing so because there are few alternatives available to them. Forcing people out into the street is not the solution.

7 University of Regina Fact sheet

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Regina Rooming House Debate

Good morning Regina!

There are so many things that the City of Regina is battling against their own taxpayers for right now, it's hard to keep track of it all! Thankfully there are some amazing local citizens who are keeping the good fight going, and working to ensure that the appropriate actions are being taken for certain issues. This one is in regards to the ongoing Rooming House debacle.

I have copied and pasted the below from Mr. Benjamin Harack, MSc BSc BA, because it summarizes, quite well, the viewpoint of many taxpayers in Regina who are of the mindset that "Rooming Houses" should most certainly not be regulated. We have enough Bylaws in place that can easily be enforced for any of the concerns that the Community Association members are bringing up. There is absolutely no need to continue with this ridiculous bylaw that punishes those in our great community who are legitimately trying to help alleviate some of the pressure in our housing crunch. 

Here you go, and by the way, they were part of the Morph My City challenge, and have an excellent document to read up on (, if you have the time. I feel strongly that this should be something that the City of Regina should, at minimum, review with these fine folks to incorporate some of their thoughts into the Design Regina OCP. Here's hoping the City is listening!

Regina’s Rooming Houses debate

The City of Regina has recently begun consulting residents about the subject of “Rooming Houses,” which are homes in residential areas in which both the owner and renters are residing. If all renters in a home are relatives, then it is not a Rooming House.1 The City has asked that comments on the subject be sent to by the 19th of July, 2013.

Certain community associations and residents within the city have asked that the city heavily regulate rooming houses – effectively requiring them to be businesses in order to operate. On the other side, some residents are asking for the exact opposite: the removal of the rooming houses clause from the Zoning Bylaw which is currently thwarting many people’s attempts to legally provide rooms for rent in the city.

I decided to contribute to the discussion by writing to the City. Here is what I said:
To Whom it may concern,

I would like to encourage the City to adopt “Option 1 – Eliminate the Rooming House Definition” as its response to the current discussion on Rooming Houses. I will try to briefly lay out my reasons here.

First, the complaints that are being made by community associations and some residents are, to my knowledge, entirely covered under bylaws other than the Rooming Houses clause. Noise is covered in the zoning bylaw, and disorderly conduct by neighbours is covered in the criminal code. Overuse of parking or high traffic volumes are existing problems, but they are very distinct from the legality of rooming houses. Currently, the same amount of traffic and parking can happen legally with a large family living in a home, so the opposition to rooming houses alone is really just a form of discrimination intended to exclude people who do not (or cannot) live with their direct relatives.
Second, direct regulation of rooming houses would be an incredibly bad economic move. Regina is experiencing its fastest population growth in the last thirty years, and houses are essentially being built as fast as they possibly can be. Constraining the supply of current and future rentals in the city is undesirable because it would render effectively homeless the large number of people who currently live in such arrangements and those who would have taken advantage of such arrangements in the near future. We already have a labour shortage because of the boom. A move like this would have many effects, but it would certainly drive people away from the city because the vacancy rate would drop even lower (in fact, it would be definitively negative if current rooming houses were shut down). There is a simple causal path from rooming house regulation to economic slowdowns in Regina.

Not only should we not be regulating rooming houses further, they should be explicitly legalized so that more Regina residents feel that they have the freedom to rent out parts of their own property and thus contribute to the ongoing influx of human and financial capital that is taking place during this boom. Raising the vacancy rate and spreading population densification around the city is desirable because it will take some of the pressure off of the areas that are currently seeing dramatic increases in density (including via rooming houses). In one stroke this will reduce the intensity of the problems regarding traffic, parking, noise, and overcrowding in some areas while also improving the vibrancy and economic solvency of other areas of the city which up until now have not seen significant densification. Diversified and decentralized growth of Regina’s working population in this manner could help undo some of the ‘hollowing out’ that has taken place during the last several decades, during which Regina has seen the number of residents per dwelling unit drop from about 4.5 to 2.3.

It is my recommendation that the city explicitly legalize rooming houses and at the same time embark on a determined effort to protect those aspects of the commons that Reginians clearly care about, such as traffic reduction, safety, noise, and the on-street parking near their homes. In this way, the City can strike a balance between the freedom of house owners to do what they want with their property and the desires of neighbourhoods to defend those things they cherish in their locales. Paradoxically, allowing densification throughout the city will alleviate, rather than exacerbate, the problems of intensive densification that are being voiced by some residents and community associations. Their interests are best served by the City ensuring that all of Regina remains a vibrant, civilized, and welcoming city to live in. Free-form densification, within reason, of residential Regina is a fundamental key to its long-term prosperity.

For more information on these points, and the statistics underlying them, please see the document Transforming Regina – Planning for 2040 and beyond.

Thank you for your time,
Benjamin Harack MSc BSc BA

Friday, 12 July 2013

City Clerk's Office Violating Cities Act?

Good morning Regina!!

If you haven't been following the ordeal that is happening at the City of Regina's City Clerk's Office, regarding verifying the signatures on the Wastewater Treatment Facility Petition, you've been missing out on some really interesting stuff! Stuff that, in my opinion, is clearly violating the Cities Act, and thus, certainly opens the City of Regina to even more legal action.

It came to the attention of many this week that the City of Regina City Clerk's Office (who is supposed to remain "independent") has been calling people to verify the exact information that is contained on the petition. There is so much wrong with this, I don't know where to start, but I will try.

First off, as a quick backgrounder on this situation, the City Clerk's Office first tried to apply to the Provincial Government to make the required number of signatures even higher than the already ridiculously high number (10% of population - even more than voted for Mayor Fougere). Secondly, they went through with a fine tooth comb and picked apart the petition and struck any signatures that were "incomplete", most notably those that didn't contain a "valid date". This struck a chord with many taxpayers, in that they shook their head at how ridiculous this action was. For the City Clerk, Joni Swidnicki, with the alleged consultation of the City's astute "legal team", to go out of her way and deem that ANY signature on that petition was done in any other year than 2013, is not only ridiculous, but borders incompetence, in my opinion. The WWTP P3 deal wasn't even public knowledge until February 2013, and most certainly we haven't mastered time travel yet, so therefore ANY signature on that petition that states a month and date after the first signature, should be deemed valid. Common sense. End of argument.

THEN, this week, I hear that the City Clerk's Office, Joni and Ashley, are now calling people to confirm not only that they SIGNED the petition, but that the information contained is valid, including if they are supposedly a valid voter. For anyone that is curious, you can read SS 108(3) & SS 108(4) of the Cities Act (, about what I am about to talk about. If you are one of these "lucky people" that happen to be "randomly selected", please do keep record of it, as it will be valid evidence in a Court of Law very soon.

The Cities Act very clearly states in SS 108(4):

"the Clerk may use a random statistical sampling method with a 95% confidence level to determine the sufficiency of the petition INSTEAD OF VERIFYING that the requirements of SS(3) have been met with respect to each petitioner."

It is pretty obvious to me that they are using BOTH SS(3) AND SS(4) which is in clear violation of the Cities Act. Yes, it's a technicality - who knows how BIG of a technicality - but certainly one that I would expect would hold up in a court of law. If they feel that they can find a loophole to void the petition, you bet your ass I'll find a loophole to ensure the petition is VALID and their "due process" is violating the Act.

Section 107 is pretty clear, as well, that, by signing the petition, you are attesting that you are indeed a valid voter, and you have not signed the petition before.

I'm no lawyer, but to me, this would mean that simply the act of signing the petition should be deemed enough evidence by the Clerk's office that they meet all requirements. All they should be allowed to do - if they choose to ignore SS 108(3) - is calling to verify people actually signed the petition, or better yet, mailing them.  

ONLY IF THEY HAVE A LEGAL CONCERN should they be applying to the COURTS to challenge if a signatory is invalid. 

Also, interesting to note, I'm not sure if they've been striking signatures because an address isn't "complete" (I'm assuming they've tried this based on the other dirty tactics they've tried), but if they have, it should be noted that an address is deemed "complete" by entering the Street Address only (no City or Postal Code required that I can interpret), or alternatively a Post Office Box Address. And the corruption and unspoken scandals continue at the City of Regina City Hall.

This should be making National Headlines, but Regina's mainstream media is so good at painting a picture of "everything's fine here, move along", that it's sticking here close to home - for now.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

RM Land Annexation and Conflict of Interest

Good morning Regina!!!

Well, as expected for many months (and years by many others), the evidence is now in black and white. Former Regina Mayor, Mr. Pat Fiacco, is indeed one of the interested landowners that wants to be annexed into the City. At least, that is what is 'interpreted' from the document printed in the Leader Post today, and the Sunday Post for those of us who like the environment and don't pay to hurt it by getting an oversized paper version of what we all get electronically.

Why is this important? Well, it certainly lends very well to the pending legal action against the City of Regina, and others, and will be very difficult to fight in a Court of Law. Is it just Pat Fiacco that I'm concerned with? Of course not! But, well, it certainly is the tip of the iceberg, and I really don't need to publish much more than this to shut up the detractors out there that say I'm a conspiracy theorist or whatever.

Have a great weekend everyone and make sure to hit up Wascana Park today when the sun comes out and shines down upon our great Queen City Cruise In!!