The province has pushed the cost of funding northern affordable housing off itself and onto northern communities – a move the NDP says shows that this government doesn’t understand the desperate need for housing in the north.
The model marks a change from the past in which the provincial and federal governments funded the projects entirely. Now, the Village of Ile-a-la-Crosse is on the hook to cover more than 50 per cent of the price of an affordable housing development in that community, according to a recent government announcement. Similarly, big proportions and costs are being pushed onto the Villages of Buffalo Narrows and La Loche for housing developments in those communities.
“The need for safe, affordable housing is critical in the north,” said Buckley Belanger, MLA for Athabasca. “This government simply doesn’t understand the precarious situation families and children are in as a result of the lack of housing, both affordable and at market rates.”
Belanger said he can understand why the communities went ahead with the deals, putting the desperate need for housing first.
“Ultimately, the leaders of these communities have put the needs of families and their communities first by focusing on housing,” said Belanger. “The fact is, if this government had any idea of the desperate need for housing, they would prioritize affordable housing in the north rather than coming up with this new model to shirk their responsibility. Villages are taking on debt because of the government’s decision to drop the ball on affordable housing.”
Belanger also questioned what will happen to families in communities that absolutely can’t afford to fund half of affordable housing projects. The government is seemingly leaving them in the cold with its new model that pushes funding onto municipalities.
By scrapping the Rental Purchase Option (RPO) – a northern program that allowed renters with excellent track records to achieve home ownership through a rent-to-own program – and by raising the price of expensive northern heating and power bills yet again, Belanger said the government is exacerbating the housing crisis in the north. He added that many more affordable units, more market rate housing and the revival of programs like the RPO that helped families to achieve home ownership are all needed to address the problem.