Kindersley house fire signals larger housing crisis

KINDERSLEY, Sask. – The Saskatchewan government named growth a top priority in its new agenda released Wednesday.

Housing is a piece of the strategy to meet the growing demands of an increasing population.

But when fire struck in a small town, the desperation of the housing situation became obvious once the smoke cleared.

Babul Choudhury moved to Canada from Bangladesh in the late 1990’s, intending to start a new life.

A booming economy and job opportunity brought him to Kindersley where he searched long and hard for a home for his family, finally settling on the only open apartment he could find.

Choudhury, his wife, three children and another couple were all living in the three-bedroom apartment. which went up in flames on Monday.

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“Burned right through here, fire got in and up through the ceiling,” said Choudhury, describing the devastation.

The apartment is now uninhabitable. What isn’t charred is smoke or water damaged.

Since the incident, the Choudhury’s have been staying in a hotel but come Friday, every room in the community of 5,000 is booked.

It’s a common occurrence according to Deborah Walker with the Salvation Army.

“Not just in Kindersley, if you go to Kerrobert, they’re all booked and they’re building a new hotel, we’re building a new hotel,” said Walker.

Desperate for a place to stay, the family is being split and billeted in the homes of two local residents but it is a temporary solution.

The town’s mayor, John Enns-Wind, says the oil and gas boom has been overwhelming and a long term plan is in the works to address the housing crisis.

“There will be affordable housing along the edges with single family homes here,” said  Enns-Wind, describing a 115 acre parcel that will have residential and commercial space but it is 10 years from completion.

“In the meantime it is a challenge” said Enns-Wind. “We’ve had to have a couple family units living in small apartments. It’s not ideal, people are addressing it by building basement suites or doing house sharing.”

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According to town officials, it has been 20 years since Sask Housing has invested in new units in Kindersley and the Salvation Army says that’s created far reaching problems.

“When I have other people come in, looking for temporary shelter because of spousal abuse, for instance, I have no place to put them,” said Walker.

A shortage of housing leaves anyone who runs into unforeseen circumstances in a situation like that of the Choudhury’s

“I don’t know where to go, I have no home” said Choudhury. Business is booming at his restaurant but work can’t keep people in a community if they don’t have a home.

The provincial government has committed $337 million to housing construction since 2007. $106 million of that has been in communities outside of Regina and Saskatoon such as Yorkton, North Battleford and Weyburn.

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