A comprehensive housing plan will be presented to Swift Current City Council in early 2013 to initiate a long term housing strategy for the community.
An open house in late 2012 showcased details of what will be going into Swift Current's Housing Plan, with the public able to learn about the city's current housing situation and give feedback for a series of draft priorities and strategies.
Gary Quiring, a Senior Urban Planner with Associated Engineering, said they had held a series of stakeholder meetings in May to gather information and get a better picture of the city housing issues. In the subsequent months they prepared a draft document that identified challenged, set some priorities, and outlined some strategies to meet future housing needs. The open house was a final opportunity for feed back in order to help finalize a report for City council.
The Swift Current Housing Plan will be a 25 year forward looking plan to address housing issues and demands including social housing, private rental and home ownership options. The plans is also being designed to accommodate all ages, incomes, household compositions and abilities.
"There is a significant seniors demographic here. But also with the new immigrants that are coming into the city, we're starting to see the families," Quiring pointed out, noting every community has their own unique challenges and needed.
"It used to be the housing issue was not to get them built, but to get someone to buy them. Now it's a question of being able to get units on the market for the whole housing continuum."
One of the main housing issues facing the community is age demographic related. The 15 to 29 age demographic is increasing, creating a higher demand for family homes. At the same time seniors are staying in their homes longer.
"For the seniors that want to downsize there's not some of the housing type that is needed, so they're staying in those homes and it's causing a bit of a back up if you will on that continuum. Those families that are going to need those homes aren't able to move into those homes. In that particular price range there is a shortage."
Quiring noted that developing a Housing Plan is important as part of an overall community planning process.
"It is always a good idea to have a plan in place so you have, first of all a picture of your housing situation to identify where you want to go and where your gaps are, and what you need to do to fill those gaps.
"When you're looking at developing new neighbourhoods you're ensuring that your addressing those housing needs that you've identified in your housing plan."
opportunities to develop some infill sights, a real benefit to a community by revitalizing older neighbourhoods, plus taking advantage of existing infrastructure already in place.
"We're real excited about what opportunities are available here in the city. In some cities you don't have that."
The Open House was designed to gather additional feedback on six identified priorities, with the final report incorporating this feedback to priorize final strategies.
Swift Current's housing issues are linked to the provincial economic and population growth in recent years. The open house highlighted the average MLS price of a home in Saskatchewan in 2011 was $258,386, increasing by $126,046 or nearly doubling since 2006. And while housing starts have risen, there is still not enough supply to keep pace with the widening range of demands. This has caused a higher demand for rental housing, and rent costs are rising and vacancy rates remain low.
A look at demographic numbers showed a 27 per cent increase in the 25-34 age range since 2006, a trend that could result in an increase to the number of children in the community. There was also a 53 per cent increase among individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 years, a number which identifies a growing senior population.
In Dec. 2011 there were approximately 7,154 dwelling units in Swift Current, and the demand for 2,388 housing units is projected for Swift Current over the next 25 years. This projected housing demand would result from an increase of young families and larger immigrant families as this projected population growth would challenge the existing supply of housing.
Swift Current's housing supply is primarily single-detached houses, while the largest percentage of dwelling units are in apartment-style buildings. New construction over the past five years has shown increased multi-family housing starts and other multiple housing forms.
SWIFT CURRENT HOUSING PLAN PRIORITIES
Priority - Support Infill Development
Targets the rejuvenation of areas by replacing aging houses, increasing the mix of housing forms which improves a range of housing needs for a variety of demographics.
- establish an infill development program that identifies targeted objectives, incentives and initiatives. Planning at six sites that will be made available for infill development following the closure of facilities (Oman School, St. Joes, St. Pats, plus three care homes Palliser, Swift Current Care Centre).
- seek a request for proposal strategy for these identified infill sites.
- review existing infill policy.
Priority - Support Targeted Residential Development
There is a need to provide support for residential development for specific demographic groups. Growth among the immigrant, senior and student population, all have distinct housing needs that could be addressed through targeted development and redevelopment initiatives.
- encourage the development of these targeted needs, and identify suitable potential sites for senior complexes and student dormitories.
- Encourage the development of personal care homes in Swift Current and the RM of Swift Current.
Priority - Improved Regulatory Environment and Municipal Process
Provide a clear and consistent regulatory environment by making sure policies, regulations and the development process are efficient and effective. This can reduce barriers and delays for developments.
- establish guidelines which help provide a streamlined approval process for residential development.
- Review existing development processes and policies to ensure they are supportive of housing growth.
- Establish policies for school site redevelopment in the official community plan.
- Zoning Bylaw changes to permit the development of secondary suites.
Priority - Support Housing Education and Collaboration
A collective dialogue surrounding housing, combined with a collaborative approach, is key to finding methods to address housing priorities. This collaborative approach will help identify opportunities for partnerships and leveraging resources.
- establish an active housing committee, host public meetings and workshops to distribute housing information to showcase initiatives and incentives.
Priority - Support Variety of Residential Development
The city would need to ensure there is a sufficient supply of developable land and zoned appropriately to accommodate the diverse array of housing needed to meet market demands. This would also require the development of community and neighbourhood plans.
- Neighbourhood planning to account for ownership, rental and mixed density of housing.
Priority - Sufficient Supply of Affordable and Appropriate Housing
This wide ranging priority helps ensure there is a supply of affordable and appropriate housing options for various life stage demographics and incomes. The plan identifies this mix as important in maintaining a healthy and suitable community. There is also a need to support an increased supply of and movement through the housing continuum to help address housing affordability. In addition, further understanding of housing demand and opportunity to address needs of the entire region in the area of emergency, supportive and transition housing is required. This priority area also calls for a rejuvenation of existing rental and single family housing, along with the development of new entry level units to respond to demand.
- Explore new partnership and funding models to assist entry into homeownership, including the development of new mortgage options and down payment options.
- Work with the non-profit sector and municipalities across the region to develop a strategy to identify and monitory demand for emergency, transitional and social housing. The support of a strong non-profit sector would ensure the long-term provision of existing social housing.
- New construction must reflect innovative design and methods to reduce construction costs to reduce new home costs, with possible solutions including increased densities, smaller units and additional options surrounding modular and ready to move units.
- Support SHC's repair and renovation incentives, including the rental repair incentive and increase enforcement to ensure compliance with existing standards.