With the combination of high prices and a small vacancy rate, it is difficult for some people to find a home in Yorkton, especially those who have disabilities. A project between SIGN and the Saskatchewan Abilities Council aims to bring affordable housing to those who need it. Andrew Sedley, executive director of SIGN, recently spoke about why such a project is necessary, and the plan going forward.
Sedley says there are some programs in place currently, such as the Single Unemployable Shelter Allowance, and the Disability Housing Supplement to pay for housing, as well as a basic allowance which those on assistance are to use for the basics of life. The problem is that it is often difficult to pay for housing with these supplements, as rents will increase when the supplements increase, and some people have to take out of their basic allowance to make rent, Sedley explains. He says there needs to be more options for housing.
The project they hope to develop is a downtown subsidized housing project. The planned building is a 30 unit apartment complex, with 20 units dedicated to those with long-term mental illness, cognitive disabilities, cognitive disabilities and other disabilities. One unit would be made for respite care, and the remaining nine for market rentals.
The proposed design would be designed with universal accessibility, and feature a green space on the roof to foster a community environment, Sedley says. The bottom floor would be a commercial space, to subsidize the 20 units and possibly provide residents with employment opportunities. He says that partnerships with business is vital for the project to succeed, and that things like selling naming rights are also being explored.
“A lot of the funding that is out there, they’re looking at business partnerships, public and private partnerships. The bottom floor we would be looking at working with businesses in the community...
It would be having that connection between business and residential, and also reducing stigma that a lot of these individuals do face,” Sedley explains.
As the area grows and Yorkton becomes a more important regional centre, Sedley says it becomes more important to build subsidized housing.
Right now, the project is in need of funding, and they are looking at CMHC seed funding and things such as the Summit Action Plan. Sedley says that right now there needs to be investors, and at least $1 million in capital to get the project moving ahead. Sedley expects that the project will cost $5 million total.
“To make something really creative like this work, we need partnerships,” he says. The project is at very early stages at the moment, and Sedley says that if all goes well he expects a two to three year timeline. He says it’s something they want to work on as soon as possible.