Saskatchewan released A Strong Foundation - The Housing Strategy for Saskatchewan 2011-12 and the 2011-12 Provincial Action Plan for housing on Aug 8. The report forms the basis upon which the government will address the housing challenges faced by communities throughout Saskatchewan.
Minister of Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, June Draude, said "This long-term strategy is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan and I am very proud to be part of it. Saskatchewan is experiencing unprecedented economic and population growth that is expected to continue for years to come. One of the challenges of this growth has been increased pressure on housing and affordability."
The report is based on consultations held throughout the province from March to April with feedback from more than 350 stakeholders. The reports set out five broad priorities including: "increase the housing supply; improve housing affordability; support individuals and families in greatest housing need; enhance strategic planning for housing; and collaborate, communication and educate."
Within each of these priorities are objectives that are hoped to help the housing sector achieve success. In order to increase the housing supply, governments aim to develop rental housing and high density housing that is attainable for first time owners, zone and service lands to ensure it is viable for residential development, encourage housing supply development in growing communities, create housing options for special populations, reduce barriers for development and maintain a housing industry labour force.
In order to improve the affordability of housing, governments aim to research and develop alternative housing tenures, reduce building costs for residential housing, maintain the affordable housing that currently exists, streamline the housing process for affordable housing and provide incentives to improve affordability.
The third objective of the framework is to support individuals and families in the greatest need of housing. In order to do this, governments will address the gaps that contribute to the lack of housing for low-income and vulnerable people, increase education and awareness about housing for vulnerable populations and support the development of housing that is complimentary to those individuals and families in the greatest need.
The fourth objective is to enhance strategic planning for housing at both the regional and community level in addition to increasing the availability of data and housing expertise. Regional collaboration is often a necessary component for the provision of affordable housing at the individual community level.
The final objective is to collaborate, communicate and educate the public about housing. In order to do this, governments will increase awareness in addition to increasing partnerships that will leverage financial and human resources. Lastly, an increase in communication of successes and information sharing is a goal throughout the sector.
The housing strategy is a clear indicator that the government recognizes the lack of affordable housing. While Enterprise Saskatchewan states that "building permits were up by 74.6 per cent in June 2011 over last June - the biggest increase of any province," communities still lack affordable housing.
The eight-year strategy will act as a roadmap for the province and individual communities. With the Aug 8 announcement, it is clear that the government has recognized this need and it is hoped that the future will bring programming to meet the needs of the provinces residents.