The provincial NDP is accusing the province of cutting the amount it spends on housing supports over the past decade.
At a media event on Tuesday in Regina, NDP MLA and Housing Critic Meara Conway said over $596 million of housing units are sitting vacant in Saskatchewan and claimed the province has missed out on more than $194 million in taxes, utilities, and foregone rent.
“The waste is simply mindboggling,” Conway said. “This means no investment, this means no return on investment on this housing portfolio. This is happening at a time when a record number of people are sleeping in back allies, in parks, in tents.”
As of December 2022, there were 3,161 vacant units in Saskatchewan, including 1,197 family social housing units, 1,892 senior social housing units, and 72 affordable housing units, according to a Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Vacancy Report.
Through freedom of information requests, Conway said the NDP gained access to Sask. Housing Corporation records, including financial statements, which show the provinces’ government contributions to the Saskatchewan Housing Portfolio fell from 2011 to 2021.
According to the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Annual Report for 2021, revenue comes from rent, as well as financial contributions from the provincial, federal, and municipal levels of government.
In 2021, total revenue for the Sask. Housing Corporation fell to two per cent, compared to 24 per cent of revenue in 2011.
“We’ve seen a steep and chilling increase in homelessness. Families and seniors are struggling more than ever to find suitable housing options that are affordable during this crisis,” Conway said. “A review of the last decade shows that the Sask. Party has been quietly and dramatically cutting supports to the social housing portfolio.”
In an emailed statement, which did not respond directly to the NDPs criticisms, the Government of Saskatchewan said its spent nearly $600 million on government-owned housing stock including a combined $100 million in 2022 and 2023.
In a follow-up email sent in response to a CTV News inquiry, a government spokesperson clarified that the $600 million is how much money the province has spent since 2007 — when the Saskatchewan Party first formed government.
The government statement also said it has been working with communities and housing authorities to meet housing needs.
“We are addressing barriers to social housing to make sure the right housing is available in the right place – and is available for people in the greatest housing need,” the statement said.
The government has also taken steps to expand eligibility for social housing.