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Politics

Low-income housing units in Saskatchewan could be for sale

There could be “for sale” signs outside some low-income housing units soon. The government is considering selling some of its stock.

“We’re looking at the whole portfolio and seeing if there’s potential to right size, repurpose, refocus on certain types of people that we’re looking at,” Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said.

The units are managed by Saskatchewan Housing, a Crown Corporation. The opposition called the possible plan another fire sale.

“Whether it’s selling off Crown land, selling off Crown corporations…it’s the Sask Party’s solution to everything. Now we hear that they’re looking to sell a $100 million worth of assets from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation,” housing critic Ryan Meili said during question period on Monday.

Beaudry-Mellor said everything is under review, and no decisions have been made.

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Many units were purchased when vacancy rates in Regina and Saskatoon were low, but that’s since changed, she said.

The ministry is making units that have been vacant for more than six months a top priority.

“If we have chronic vacancies in our communities under 300 people, you know that’s an expense for government that we don’t necessarily need,” she said.

Beaudry-Mellor said the ministry is looking at repurposing units as potential receiving spaces for kids in need. She added some communities with housing shortages had expressed interest in housing nurses or teachers in the units.

“All those things are in the mix right now,” she said.

Anti-poverty advocate Peter Gilmer wants to see more social housing, not less. He called the possible sell-off a short-term solution.

“Any cut to any social housing unit right now is a bad idea because it is so essential for so many low income individuals and families,” he said.

“Any properties that that are sold off are not likely to get bought back, and we really need all those properties,” he said, adding that vacancy rates are often cyclical.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we had a vacancy rate in Regina that was less than one half of one per cent or about 90 vacant units for the entire city.”

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The government said surplus units are sold at fair value.

More than 600 units have been sold since 2003.