Council moves past housing revenue to housing reserve

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Lisa Goudy
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Coun. Don Mitchell speaks about his motion to transfer the city’s share of revenues from the sale of seven jointly funded Moose Jaw Housing Authority family housing units from the accumulated surplus to a housing reserve at the March 10, 2014 council meeting.

City revenue collected for seven housing units will now be in a housing reserve fund.

The majority of council voted in favour of Coun. Don Mitchell’s motion as amended to transfer the city’s share of revenues from the sale of seven jointly funded Moose Jaw Housing Authority family housing units from the accumulated surplus to a housing reserve to contribute to provincial and federal government housing projects.

“For us to even discuss with the province potential partnerships to address some of these projects, we need to have a resource base that’s been recognized by council,” said Mitchell. “To identify an account and to initiate that with the housing revenues from the sale of past family housing units, which was not considered by the previous council because they didn’t know that was happening, I think is an appropriate step.”

The revenues total $38,457.99 from the sale between December 2006 and January 2008.

“Rather than simply absorb it in the accumulated surplus, it should be set aside as a reserve and then added to by the existing agreements that are around the family housing units that have been announced for sale over the next two years,” said Mitchell.

He added the city is and has been one of the partners in the housing process. Some of the identified needs include secondary housing for women facing violence who temporarily stay in the Moose Jaw Transition House.

“To move back into the community, there’s a serious housing gap in affordable housing,” said Mitchell, adding the gap also applies to larger immigrant and refugee families.

However, Coun. Brian Swanson said he couldn’t support the motion because there has been a lot of money put into the housing line in the budget.

“We are not funding our commitments to affordable housing on a one-time pay basis. We’re mortgaging our commitment to affordable housing and stretching our commitment to that over many years and using borrowed money to do that,” he said.

He added the city should have a minimal role in housing. He added expensive housing is present in more successful economies.

“I think our focus should be on how we get the economy and jobs in this community so that housing can take care of itself without municipal officials … taking money from other people and putting it into housing,” said Swanson.

Coun. Patrick Boyle said he felt the issue is a “slippery slope.” He said he believes housing to be a provincial and federal responsibility.

“We have a role to play in (housing) in the simple fact that we are the municipalities that have people who live there and there’s a land and zoning responsibility … not to a funding level,” said Boyle.

According to a background report from the business development division, the revenue collected was placed in the miscellaneous operating revenue account. Whenever there were housing sales, an entry closed the funds to the miscellaneous revenues, recognized as such in year-end reports.

Ultimately, those revenues would’ve ended up in the accumulated surplus. Any excess in the accumulated surplus would be brought back for council to distribute.

Brian Acker, director of financial services, estimated there is $1.8 million in the surplus. Mitchell’s motion moved $38,457.99 from the surplus to a dedicated housing reserve.

“By us having a dedicated fund, we will show our commitment to affordable housing and show that we are thinking along those lines,” added Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick.

Mitchell’s motion was passed in a vote of 4-3 with Swanson, Boyle and Coun. Dawn Luhning opposed and Mitchell, Kirkpatrick, Mayor Deb Higgins and Coun. Heather Eby in favour.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Moose Jaw Housing Authority, Moose Jaw Transition House

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