Weyburn Housing Situation Hurts the Most Vulnerable

The booming economy in Weyburn has created a bust for those limited means looking for a home in the community Fred Sandeski, executive director of the Community Low Income Center, is working on the front lines of the Weyburn housing crisis and helps people dealing with the situation every day.
The booming economy in Weyburn has created a bust for those limited means looking for a home in the community Fred Sandeski, executive director of the Community Low Income Center, is working on the front lines of the Weyburn housing crisis and helps people dealing with the situation every day. "The housing situation is very, very poor," said Sandeski. "I noticed it in 2009. It started to become a real issue." The city is currently sitting at a less than 1% vacancy rate. A reasonable vacancy rates according to housing experts is 3% and the lack of housing has driven the price of housing up drastically in recent years. Sandeski compared the current vacancy rate to the rate in 2009, when it was about 2%. People coming to is center sound many one-bedroom apartments for $350 a month or houses for 400 to rent. Currently, most one-bedroom apartments start renting for more than $1000 a month. Sandeski said an individual working full-time earning minimum wage, somebody living on social assistance or someone collecting a pension "hasn't a hope in hell" of finding a home. The Canadian mortgage and housing Corporation recommends no more than 30% of a household's income be spent on shelter costs, which includes the cost of rent or a mortgage, utilities and necessary upkeep. Yet pensioners, the disabled and the unemployed are all feeling the crunch on their fixed incomes and are spending as much as 75% of their income on housing. Lyle Fettes, 60, has been on a list at the Weyburn housing authority waiting for a home for over three years. Sandeski said some have been waiting as long as four years. Fettes lives in a crocus Villa one-bedroom cottage. It costs him $625 a month and there's mold in the bathroom. He has informed the landlord of it and was told they won't fix it until he moves out. Fettes worked full-time and reported himself until he was caught in the middle of a two car collision as a pretest. When he was out for a walk 15 years ago. Injuries from that accident have impacted his ability to work. Now Fettes collects $294 a month in pension money, eight $224 housing supplement, and $330 a month from the Saskatchewan assistance program for a total of $848 a month. After Fettes pays rent, he has $223 to buy himself groceries, prescriptions and anything else he may need for the month. "I just have to wait for a day," said Fettes, of how he copes with unexpected expenses. Fettes walks or bikes everywhere. Last winter, he slipped on the ice and knocked himself out. He was unconscious outside for 45 min. before somebody found him and called an ambulance. Then, Fettes had a $245 ambulance bill. A social service covered the ambulance bill, but provides no help for Fettes with other necessaries. Steven, 35, and Kristen, 31, Smiley lived with their two children in a Weyburn housing authority home in the city and have lived in to of WH A homes. Steven has cerebral palsy and must use a wheelchair or medical scooter to go more than very short distances. Kristen cares for their two young children, age 5 and one year old. The couple’s first home was not handicap accessible and as a result, Steve and caused damage to the floors and the walls when he tripped and injured himself numerous times. The Smiley's requested a handicap suitable home or that a lift be installed so he could easily access the bathroom on the second floor, but that never happened. Kristen said there was also mold in the bathroom which gave their eldest child a chronic cold. When they complained, a contractor just put new vinyl over the old vinyl and mold. "That's disturbing to me," said Kristen. "The home definitely could have been safer," said Steven. When Kristen became pregnant with their youngest child at the beginning of 2011, she immediately put in an application for a larger and safer all for their growing family. The couple's youngest child was already crawling by the time they got a bigger home in March of 2012. The three-bedroom home the family now lives in is safer for Steven, but the WH A requires that you believe is medical scooter outside, which racks up thousands of dollars in damage from the cold, weather and vandalism which their extended families have covered for them. All told, there rent alone increased from $403 a month to $577 a month in just over a year. On top of that, the WHA is charging them $20 a month extra to cover the damages on their previous home caused by Stevens tripping. The Smiley's income varies a little bit from month to month but it never exceeds 1900 for their family of four and is frequently less. The $597.08 a month plus utilities means about 50% of their budget is put towards shelter costs, well above the 30% recommendations. Steven has lived in Alberta, where they also added an oil boom and soaring housing costs, and said that province has handled it much better than Saskatchewan. "Alberta is a lot better set up. They gave me enough to survive," said Steven. "I have none of these problems if I was still living in Alberta." Marlene Edel, 70, is a tensioner with no other income living in bison manner. She has been there for three years. Edel's rent is based on her income but the special rental rate comes with many stipulations. Some of the restrictions on bison manner residents aren't they are allowed to have guests for just two weeks a year and they are not allowed to do anybody's laundry but their own. When her adult son was having his own housing problems, she agreed to take in games while he looked for another home. His housing search took much longer than anticipated because of the housing market, despite Edel and her son were calling landlord's everyday for three months trying to find something affordable. Then she received an eviction notice for giving her son a place to stay. He left as quickly as possible, accepting an unsafe roommate arrangement, so that Edel could keep her apartment, but she said she remembers the stress and fear of being left homeless with the city's current housing situation. The City of Weyburn has opened many lots and is focusing on residential development, which is more profitable for investors. According to the Weyburn housing need and demand assessment of 2011 an estimated 3900 new housing units is needed in the city over the next 15 years and many of those needed immediately. Doubt remains to whether that will be enough to help those who most need it. Sandeski said rental caps would be the most effective solution to the housing problem, but the housing assessment focuses only on building more homes to buy and says nothing of increasing the number of rentals. "Rent is just not on the agenda at all," says Sandeski of the city's priorities

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GENEVA - “Many of the issues our committee raised in 1993 and 1998 are unfortunately still live issues today,” said Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during the committee’s review of Canada’s performance. “Years later, the situation appears to be unchanged, and in some respects worse. There is continuing homelessness and reliance on food banks, security of tenure is not still not enjoyed by tenants, child tax benefits are still clawed back, (...) the situation of aboriginal peoples, migrants and people with disabilities doesn’t seem to be improving.”