City reviewing low-income housing grants: Planning manager says concentration in three neighbourhoods is not working

By Bryn Levy March 27, 2013 - The City of Saskatoon is taking a look at how it distributes grants for affordable rental housing. Allan Wallace, the city's manager of planning and development told the Planning and Operations committee Tuesday, that the current model risks creating ghettos in Riversdale, Pleasant Hill and parts of King George.

These were identified as the areas that hold the vast majority of the subsidized developments. Wallace advocated a more even distribution of any further subsidized rentals. He then explained a series of recommendations his department has worked on. They call for tighter controls on how grants are given to projects in the saturated neighbourhoods, coupled with better incentives to build projects elsewhere.

In a subsequent interview, Wallace elaborated on his comments to the committee, saying:

"What we proposed to council was using some discretion. It wouldn't mean that in all cases we would deny an application for funding. It just means that we would consider things like whether the housing would have a beneficial impact by improving existing housing stock, utilizing an existing site... (or being) located next to specific services, like if there was a need for the housing to be located next to say, a hospital."

Wallace pointed out that neighbourhoods function better when they have a mix of people of different incomes living in them, rather than dividing any one group from the rest.

"What the city is advocating is that there shouldn't be a concentration of any incomes high or low in any one area."

He took pains to point out that the recommendations are not an attempt to drive the poor out of the core, nor do they represent a cut to the grant program.

"I think there's ample opportunity all over the city -- and close to the core -- that doesn't have to be in those three neighbourhoods," said Wallace.

Wallace's recommendations for the grant program are to be reviewed by council ahead of their annual Housing Business Plan report expected in early May.

(c) Rawlco 2013