Housing supply

Opinion: As Saskatchewan grows, we need to talk about housing supply

Regina’s housing stock remains balanced, while Saskatoon is experiencing a shortage of single-family homes.

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Saskatchewan’s housing industry has identified the gaps in the provincial housing continuum, and while our Prairie reality looks rosy compared to some of our neighbours, we must act now to avoid a similar fate.

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We wanted to provide a scale of accommodations required to spark conversation. Right now, if we maintain the status quo, Saskatchewan needs to build 95,500 low-end units. We would say that this number is insufficient to meet the growth demands that the province anticipates.

To meet its growth plan, the Government of Saskatchewan plans to welcome approximately 219,000 new residents by 2030. Based on this growth, the province will need to build 141,500 housing units to be on par with the Organization for Cooperation and economic development (OECD) average of 468 dwellings per thousand inhabitants.

We think this figure is unrealistic and a bit too high.

So we think the real number is somewhere between those two. The fact is that elected officials and policy makers have an enormous task ahead of them to meet this immense challenge.

Consider that since 1990, homebuilders in Saskatchewan have delivered approximately 98,000 new homes to the condominium, homeownership and rental markets.

If it took Saskatchewan more than 30 years to build an even smaller number of homes than we need now, the amount of buildings required to meet the government’s population target for 2030 seems staggering public policies.

The lack of available housing, at various points along the housing continuum, has become an issue of growing concern in our province. The types of properties in demand differ across the province, which reinforces our argument that housing is a very local issue. Identifying the gaps in the continuum is only the starting point.

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Regina’s housing stock remains balanced despite strong sales in the early stages of the pandemic. Saskatoon, on the other hand, lacks single-family homes. Other regions have also experienced shortages and benchmark prices continue to rise.

A real estate agent in rural Saskatchewan said that not only was inventory down in her area, but she was no longer seeing empty homes. This potential for growth is exciting, but it also makes us fearful of what is required of our province for smart, sustainable growth.

It is possible to grow too quickly, without proper planning, leaving chaos in its place – a crisis housing continuum. While existing policies may improve supply and slow demand in the short term, federal policies (including the recent federal budget) generally focus on the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets.

Traditionally, first-time home buyers, immigrants and at-risk populations in places like Saskatchewan have been disproportionately affected by measures taken to slow demand. If this challenge does not become a major concern for decision makers across the province, it will be more difficult to maintain Saskatchewan’s advantage.

Housing is everyone’s business. It is the cornerstone not only of safety and health, but also of growth and financial stability. Saskatchewan offers some of the most affordable housing in the country.

This affordability will continue to erode as the inventory of homes across the housing continuum declines, which is evident across the country. Provincial and local governments must therefore act on issues that limit supply and artificially create upward pressure on prices.

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We are at a precipice. Our network will bring together the best and brightest minds over the next few months to assess policy options and determine what the next steps look like. We should be in the same boat.

We are confident that Saskatchewan can meet this challenge and continue to prosper. Affordability is our defining competitive advantage. We are in a very good position and we cannot afford to lose this.

Samantha Krahn is the Director of External and Government Relations and Chris Guérette the CEO of the Saskatchewan Realtors Association. They write this on behalf of the Saskatchewan Housing Continuum Network, which includes the SRA, Habitat for Humanity Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Landlord Association, the Regina & Region Home Builders’ Association, and the Saskatoon & Region Home Builders’ Association.

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