Meeting Moose Jaw’s need for affordable housing

Justin Crann
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Balmoral Apartments officially open doors

The Balmoral Apartments are open again to tenants, and caretaker Joseph Norrad couldn’t be happier.

“I followed the renovations fully and when they were ready to reopen, I got back in touch with (MMRD Properties Inc., the landlords),” said Norrad, who has maintained the building for the past five years and lived in it for the past nine. “I call this place my home, and I’m happy to be home.”

He said the building has “changed immensely” in the renovation process.

“It’s like brand new,” Norrad said. “It’s a night-and-day change. It’s quite extensive, all of the work they’ve done to the building ... it’s almost 1,000 times better than it used to be.”

Norrad isn’t the only person pleased to see the Balmoral reopened.

“It’s very nice to see a building on Main Street renovated and redeveloped so that it can be a lasting part of our community for years to come,” Mayor Deb Higgins said at the building’s grand opening on Friday. “It is important when we see additions to the low income and affordable housing here when it comes to the community.”

According to Higgins, Moose Jaw has an affordable housing shortage.

“At times, (the vacancy rate) has been below one per cent, which in effect means we have zero vacancies,” she said.

According to 2013 statistics from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Moose Jaw had an overall vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent in Oct. 2013. That’s 0.2 per cent below the national rate of 2.9 per cent, and 0.4 per cent below the provincial rate for the same time period. Lower vacancy rates typically correspond to higher monthly rents and other issues that are disadvantageous, in particular, to low-income households. Looking past the statistics, the need for affordable housing is evident in the Balmoral Apartments’ own example.

“It’s quite evident that there’s a need,” said Ray Boughen, MP for Palliser, pointing to the fact that the majority of suites were rented out before the building officially opened its doors.

“There’s a need for housing — especially for low-income housing,” added Warren Michelson, MLA for Moose Jaw North.

That need was the impetus for joint funding — to the tune of $662,000 — from the federal and provincial governments through the CMHC and Saskatchewan Housing Corporation respectively.

It was the funding that made the project possible.

“We bought it as a fixer-upper, applied for the funding, and ... started renovations in April last year,” said Derek Rawlings, one of the partners in MMRC Properties Inc. “I don’t think we could have done it without that funding.”

Ultimately, now that the building has opened, Rawlings said it is a “win-win” for the governments, his partnership, and the people of Moose Jaw.

“The building is historic — it’s almost 100 years old — so it fits in with the whole fabric of the city,” he said.

“I think these apartments are as nice as any new apartment in the city. ... We have safe, affordable housing, and it’s great for Moose Jaw.”

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Organizations: MMRD Properties, CMHC, CMHC and Saskatchewan Housing MMRC Properties

Geographic location: Moose Jaw North, Balmoral

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Recent comments

  • Gary Smith
    March 11, 2014 - 21:02

    Now that he has been given 600,000 from the taxpayer, who is making the profit from the income on this property? And do we taxpayers get our money back once he sells the property for a vastly larger sum now that it's all fixed up?