As tents sit in Regina's Pepsi Park, city council is expected to move forward in locking down timely provincial funding Wednesday — all in an effort to create more permanent affordable housing.
In August, the city was selected as part of the Government of Canada's Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) program, administered through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, to receive $7.8 million in capital dollars. That money was expected to be set aside for a minimum of 29 affordable housing units, which were slated to be built and running by this month.
City administration is asking for council's approval to enter into an agreement with the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation to borrow $783,000 so it can remain on time with the project. The city has already contributed $1 million from its social development reserve.
"The RHI program will help support the city's efforts to increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing units and provide support for residents experiencing chronic homelessness and housing insecurity," city administration wrote in its report.
Should council vote down the recommendation and decline the 10-year forgivable loan from the province, city administration warned the RHI project would need to be "scaled back."
Camp Marjorie's next steps
While not formally on the city council agenda, the future of the tent community erected in Regina's Pepsi Park — now known as Camp Marjorie — is also set to be discussed, according to Ward 8 Coun. Shanon Zachidniak.
"We'll be having a discussion at city council in terms of what we need to put in place to officially allow for this camp to be here, as long as it needs to be a temporary solution," she told reporters during a news conference at the camp Tuesday.
Zachidniak said there are several bylaws the city is currently "pretending don't exist" to allow for tents to remain in the park.
"This is better than nothing until we have a better solution in place," she said, noting the city is looking for the province to provide access to hotel rooms for those experiencing homelessness.
In the meantime, the city is working with firefighters and community groups to see how it can make the camp more safe and comfortable for the people staying there, Zachidniak added.
Tents were first erected in Pepsi Park last Friday. It was in preparation for a winter shelter for people dealing with homelessness in the wake of the new Saskatchewan Income Support program.
Under the new program, money for housing is going straight to the people using it rather than directly to landlords. Anti-poverty advocates say the change has led to unpaid rent and evictions.