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Plans to resolve housing dilemma beginning to emerge

Raised awareness regarding Estevan's housing shortage is quickly leading to action plans it seems. A Jan.

Raised awareness regarding Estevan's housing shortage is quickly leading to action plans it seems.

A Jan. 18 meeting in Carlyle, which is in the heart of the Saskatchewan South East Enterprise Region (SSEER), the agency that organized the working session, resulted in some firm ideas that can be pursued, according to those who attended.

Presentations from the City of Saskatoon and Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) helped significantly, said Michel Cyrenne, Estevan and District Board of Tourism, Trade and Commerce's (ETTC) community development manager.

There was also a presentation by Saskatchewan Municipal Affairs, outlining what can and cannot be done in terms of development issues, which proved helpful, Cyrenne said.

The urgency of the local housing situation was outlined last week by Edie Spagrud, chief executive officer for SSEER, after the results of a local business survey had been completed and analyzed.

At that time, Spagrud referred to the housing issue as "dramatic. " She went on to state that the extent of the local shortage was even more serious than what was anticipated earlier.

Spagrud said the survey results prompted the Carlyle meeting since the problem was exacerbated throughout the entire southeast sector, thanks in large part to a booming oil patch.

The plan that could evolve would include moving family-orientated individuals away from temporary housing into permanent units, allowing them to move their families into Estevan and other communities to provide more sustainable growth.

"There were good presentations," said Cyrenne, who was in attendance at the Carlyle meeting. He said the Saskatoon presentation was helpful insofar as that city has been coping with unprecedented growth issues for more than five years and has now developed a good plan to provide a housing at both the low and high ends of the spectrum.

"CMHC also told us how they can assist communities and committees to address housing needs, which was helpful," said Cyrenne.

"The information from Saskatoon offered up project ideas that could be applicable here in Estevan," Cyrenne added.
Estevan city Councilor Chris Istace was in attendance, and Cyrenne said he felt that he (Istace) was encouraged by the meeting's results and that perhaps council could respond by striking up an ad hoc local housing committee.
Cyrenne said he would like to see some leadership roles being taken up by the municipalities that have expressed interest in a master plan.

"As far as ETTC is concerned, we would want to be involved, most definitely. There is another forum scheduled for the region on Feb. 9 and we will be attending that one because I see ETTC in a leadership role too."

The February meeting will probably focus on investor interest and potential getting down to the brass tacks, so to speak. Cyrenne said that a few developers were in attendance at the Carlyle meeting that attracted about 50 invited delegates.

An independent survey conducted by consultant Lyle Peterson should be completed near the end of March. This survey is focusing on sustainable plans involving alternative housing plans, sourcing developers and connection among municipalities.

Last week Spagrud said 12 communities had already signed up for the project.

It had also been noted in the SSEER survey that several local businesses found themselves involved in housing developments and investments in accommodation units, even though it was not their main function or interest. The respondents had said they needed to become involved in order to find accommodations for their ever-increasing employee base that was needed to match their increases in business activities.

Spagrud was not immediately available to respond directly to the results from the Jan. 18 meeting, but is expected to remain fully engaged in the housing project as it moves forward with the investor/developer meeting in February and with the release of further results from the consultant in March.

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