Community meeting discusses provincial housing sale

Justin Crann
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Social costs a concern among attendees

Coun. Don Mitchell (right) discusses with Mayor Deb Higgins and MJHA representative Sharon Bourdeau his motion to express concern over the province's decision to sell off 114 housing units without consultation. The motion was defeated by council Monday.

A community meeting to discuss the province’s sale of 114 social housing units and the replacement of those units with high-density apartment blocks was held at Moose Jaw’s city hall Tuesday night.

“It was because they needed maintenance and improvements done to them and so the decision was made that it would be too costly to either continue to do that or replace them with new homes,” said Sharon Bourdeau, a representative of the Moose Jaw Housing Authority (MJHA), who organized the meeting. “It’s more cost-efficient to build apartment complexes.”

But members of the community raised concerns at the meeting about the hidden social costs of constructing apartment complexes over single-family properties.

“I’d hate to see Moose Jaw Housing sell their houses,” said Pat Toombs, a former resident of a Moose Jaw Housing home.

“It gave me security. It was my stepping stone to something better. And there’s so many aspects that scare me about selling off housing.

“I don’t think there’s anything good from raising children in apartment blocks. I have yet to see anything,” Toombs said.

“We need to look at this issue to great lengths and make sure our short-term gain isn’t going to be a long-term pain down the road in the social costs for our children, and with regards to policing, and things like that.”

According to Coun. Don Mitchell, many residents have been raising concerns about the decision.

“I’m on the housing advisory committee and went to the meeting where there was a briefing on this ... I was aware of the community concerns and I thought that the city, as a corporate partner, has had a share in this from the very start,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell’s concern prompted the advancement of a motion to express concern about the sale of the properties without consultation with the city, he said.

“I thought we should push back a bit because we are a partner that hasn’t been consulted and, on the surface, that doesn’t seem like a good direction to go, so I put forward a notice of motion,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell then intended to delay his motion until after further consultation could be had with the deputy minister of housing and the public at large, he said.

“I put forward the motion ... the motion was seconded and put on the table, but I couldn’t get the tabling motion (to postpone it) passed to delay it, so it came last night,” Mitchell explained. “And it was a long meeting with a lot of issues, and there wasn’t a lot of discussion, so it was defeated.”

Mitchell said he wasn’t surprised by the defeat of the motion.

“The timing wasn’t great, (but) I wasn’t totally surprised it was defeated,” Mitchell said. “There’s some feeling that even though the city has a history over 60 years of being a partner in municipal housing, there’s a feeling that we shouldn’t be involved in that kind of social agenda.”

Bourdeau also expressed her disappointment with the defeat of the motion firmly.

“We’re really disgusted with the lack of proactivity from the City of Moose Jaw,” said Bourdeau. “We felt that we were making some headway. I was very dismayed to see that a motion coming forward to at least be concerned about this was defeated by our city councillors.”

“This is a city issue,” she added. “Social housing is a city issue. It’s not something to be shoved into the background.”

Mitchell stated plainly that the housing issue isn’t over for council.

“This is an ongoing issue and I’m obviously disappointed with the response of council, but we know that this is going to take time,” he said. “We were investors in this community housing right back to the 1950s, and I think we have a formal stake and investment as a partner that requires more consultation than has happened. I hope I can persuade my colleagues that this is the case.”

“In reality, it is,” Mitchell added, “And if the community agencies that are concerned here get involved in the discussion, I think we can look for some changes and compromises along the way.”

Organizations: Moose Jaw Housing Authority

Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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