What exactly is considered "Affordable" Housing? According to CMHC, it is defined quite clearly as "Affordable housing costs less than 30% of before-tax household income". It is important to note, that shelter costs include utilities and property taxes, as applicable. For the layperson, this seems like a pretty clear cut definition, and something that would be very easy to measure and apply to any given situation. Why is it then, that our Regina Senior Administrators and City Council prefer to use a special "Made In Regina" definition, leaning towards "at or below market rate"?
City of Regina Definition:policy papers submitted by the Saskatchewan Realtors Association over the past decade to the Provincial Government. These papers are a virtual roadmap to what the organizations (with a vested interest in developing the Real Estate Market) had proposed - and have been successful in receiving ever since the Saskatchewan Party of Premier Brad Wall have been in power. Add to that, how our current and former City Council and certain Senior Administrators at the City of Regina (as well as the RM of Sherwood) hold a tremendous vested interest in increasing the values of Real Estate transactions (land inclusive), and you quickly realize an independent review is absolutely essential in order to determine who may have violated Conflict of Interest legislation, and what consequences are appropriate for such obvious market manipulation.
Association of Saskatchewan Realtors Definition:median income of the community. What has been proposed by these organizations is to find a way to increase that median income, which in turn would mean the average house price/rent would be more in line with the 30% mark as set by CMHC. They plan to achieve this by providing housing subsidies to those that they deem as the most at risk. This is a very unique perspective, and certainly ignores the harsh reality of what the lack of truly Affordable Housing means to our community. What's more, is it ignores a good majority of the population that don't qualify for housing subsidies - the "Blue Collar Workers".
By now, I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Well, if the situation is truly this bad, why aren't residents out on the streets with pitchforks and demanding accountability from their elected officials?" The answer, quite simply, is apathy - due to how people have been treated in the past from these officials. Never mind the fact that many are struggling every single day to determine how they are going to find their next meal. And, when you add the fact that the Provincial Government pretty much wipes its' hands clean of any potential wrongdoing by municipalites (because municipalities are their own level of government with ultimate accountability to the taxpayer), and it becomes quite clear that the only way to hold our elected officials accountable is to place tremendous public pressure on them.
There are a number of solutions available to taxpayers, many of which are certainly not attractive to Realtors, in that they stand to gain nothing by promoting these alternatives. This, of course, lends itself even more to the question of Conflict of Interest, and which hat the Realtor is wearing when voting on a decision that could very well affect their livelihood.
The first solution is to put extreme public pressure on the City of Regina to open its' books to the public and allow an inquiry and/or forensic audit to ensure that our tax dollars are indeed being spent in the most fiscally responsible manner. These are both available to the public in the Cities Act, in sections 354 and 352. The province has confirmed with me that they will only step in, in extenuating circumstances. So, it is up to you and I, the individual taxpayer, to demonstrate the overwhelming desire of the public to review the goings on at City Hall. Stay tuned for more on this developing story in the coming weeks.
Secondly, pressure the Realtors/Lobbyists on Council, and anyone else in a position of authority at City Hall, to withdraw themselves from any given vote that may even be perceived as a Conflict of Interest. A better solution to this would be to have Realtors remuneration changed from a percentage of sales price, to a flat rate or an hourly rate. This simple change would remove any incentive for those individuals to vote for decisions like the new Somerset development solely for the purpose of padding their own pocket books. As well, I am quite confident you would see a dramatic change in the overall real estate market in and around Regina.
Thirdly, and probably most important, would be to change the mindset of City Hall to one of cooperation and community. While this stands very little chance of ever being considered, let alone adopted, by our current City Council and Administrators, it lends itself quite well to a truly community-minded and focused City Hall. With this in mind, I present to you the proposal for the City of Vancouver called "The Cooperative City". This is a tremendous resource, and it builds upon the Co-operative nature that the great residents of Saskatchewan know and love, and one of the major principles of how our province was established.