Changes coming to Sask. subsidized housing

REGINA – Some Saskatchewan residents living in affordable housing don’t actually need it, according to Social Services.

Now the provincial government is changing the rules in hopes some of those people move on to the private housing market.

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation introduced a transition of what’s known as ‘affordable housing’ into the ‘social housing’ system.

Criteria for new applicants is based on income and safety of current living arrangements, compared to just how much money an applicant makes.

Tenants previously under the affordable housing banner will now have their rent recalculated based on 30 per cent of their income, adjusted for factors such as household size, rather than just a fixed monthly rate.

One reason for the changes? The government believes about 600 families, or 20 per cent of affordable housing clients, can afford housing on their own.

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A small number of them are making more than $100,000 per year and still having their rent subsidized.

“I’m not sure how you can justify why the taxpayer should supply subsidized housing for higher income individuals and families that can afford the private market,” said Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer.

Opposition critics believe combining the two wait lists for social and affordable housing is a bad idea and could result in more people becoming the “working poor” – or those making minimum wage who are not considered vulnerable members of society.

David Forbes, NDP social services critic, said social housing used to be more clearly defined.

“This was for the very poor and those fleeing domestic abuse, that type of thing, a clear message about what social housing was for,” Forbes said. “Affordable housing filled a gap just above that. Now the signal is that we’re walking away from that.”

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The changes impact about 2,700 households – half of which may see their rent go up.

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