Rapid housing unit for Regina heads to full council after vigorous committee debate

Regina City Council Chambers. Connor O'Donovan / Global News

A 29-unit rapid housing complex set to be built in Regina’s Churchill Downs neighbourhood sparked quite the debate among residents and city councillors.

In December it was announced the apartment complex would be built at 120 Broad St. and focus on supportive permanent housing.

The city received $7.75 million from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. to help build affordable housing.

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Some 25 per cent of the units will be for women or women and their children, with 15 per cent of units targeted toward Indigenous residents, and contain space for men, women, children and LGBTQ2 residents.

At a recent executive committee meeting, city administration officials recommended the committee and city council approve the land transfer of 120 Broad St. to Silver Sage Holdings Ltd.

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Silver Sage is a non-profit First Nation housing corporation that currently houses 550 tenants across Regina.

Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services has also joined with Silver Sage and together they will help deliver and operate the new rapid housing complex.

At the executive committee meeting, over 15 delegates from the community spoke for and against the project.

The detractors claim the city mishandled the rollout of the project and did not provide ample information to area residents before going ahead with the proposal.

Wanda Rockthunder, a resident of Ward 7,  where the housing units are to go, says the project was rushed. “They bought the land before they even consulted anybody, so they already made their decision.”

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City officials did admit to needing more open communication behind the project. They explained the expeditious nature of the proposal as a necessity to secure the funding from the federal government.

Construction plans have the complex ready for use in December of this year.

They stated they looked at over 20 possible locations across Regina before settling on a new building at 120 Broad St.

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At the executive committee meeting, Ward 7 Coun. Terina Shaw challenged city administration officials, asking to know the other possible locations and if council should just trust the city administrators.

“The answer is: absolutely,” replied Chris Holden, city manager. “We are your administration. We are professionals. We have an obligation to make sure that we are providing you advice. If you don’t have trust and confidence in your administration, then we have a different situation to discuss.”

Delegates also raised safety concerns about the project’s vicinity to nearby Imperial Community School, claiming the male residents in the new building would create a dangerous environment for children.

Coun. Andrew Stevens questioned one such claim from area resident Donna Hudgin, asking, “Do you have any evidence to suggest that a supportive housing unit is inherently unsafe?”

Hudgin responded, “Would you walk by one with me at night, or would you run, Andrew?”

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Erica Beaudin, executive director of Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services, spoke to the misconception that people would be coming and going constantly, or that people using the housing would be dangerous.

“The people at the transitional facility, the people at Camp Hope, the people experiencing homelessness in our city — that is a totally different demographic than the people who will be entering this housing facility,” Beaudin said.

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“The people accessing these particular units would have already been working with supports for months and are ready to live independently.”

After the seven-hour meeting, the proposal passed with an 8-3 vote, with councillors Mohl, Bresciani, and Shaw voting against.

It will now go before council at the next public meeting, Feb. 2.

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