‘We’re still in crisis’: USask researchers to unpack affordable housing efficacy

An example of a Saskatoon housing project that offers an affordable place to live for people who are unable to find or maintain secure housing without support services. Devin Sauer / Global News

Nine Saskatoon organizations are working with the University of Saskatchewan to determine which types of affordable housing programs yield the best results for various communities.

Researchers in the prairies and Atlantic and central Canada will explore the effects of affordable rental housing on tenants, taking age, gender, race and sexuality into consideration.

One of the lead researchers in Saskatoon said there are plenty of challenges with affordable housing, but one stands out: there isn’t enough of it.

“We have not kept up with the stock of affordable housing, so we’re still in crisis,” said Isobel Findlay, a USask business professor and co-director of the Community-University Institute for Social Research.

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“We still face growing homelessness issues, especially here in Saskatoon.”

The five-year study, funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, aims to answer questions about the pros and cons of various rental housing programs, from rent supplements to public housing.

“The pandemic has made visible some of the stresses and inequalities and levels of precarity, and so I think the general public has become more aware of how precariously many people live,” Findlay said.

Researchers will explore the experiences of tenants, how landlords apply eviction legislation, and the connection between housing programs and other human service providers.

The researchers also hope to answer simple questions, like whether affordable housing is actually affordable and if the living conditions are acceptable.

Findlay noted the recent closure of Saskatoon’s City Centre Inn and Suites shows that’s not always the case. The motel was forced to shut down due to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.

Some tenants told Global News they were paying upwards of $900 a month to live there. Still, some didn’t want to leave.

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“We see… that human desire to have a home, to have housing stability and to be able to engage in the community,” Findlay said.

Quint Development Corporation, one of the community partners for the study, has been providing affordable housing in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods for nearly 25 years.

Executive director Len Usiskin said he looks forward to learning what the company is doing well and what it could be doing better.

“It could help inform and improve the way we provide affordable, subsidized rental housing in Saskatchewan,” he said.

Click to play video: 'City Centre Inn and Suites evacuates after deemed unsafe, unsanitary'
City Centre Inn and Suites evacuates after deemed unsafe, unsanitary

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