It’s No Longer Cheap to Live in Regina

Media Appearances, Poverty, Frontier Centre

Regina is no longer one of the most affordable places to live, according to a new survey.

On Wednesday the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) released the 5th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, which rated housing affordability in 34 Canadian cities. Two years ago Regina claimed the top spot as the most affordable place to live but this year it ranked 18th.

“Regina is kind of in the middle but on the other hand Regina is getting more and more expensive,” said David Seymour, director for FCPP’s Saskatchewan office.

The survey is based on all house sales between July and September 2008. The authors of the survey list the figure at which each of the houses sold, and the middle figure is the median, Seymour explained, adding the same process is used to determine the median income.

“They say how many years of income would it take to pay for a house and that gives you a number,” he said.

“Two years ago, Regina’s number was 2.0 so it’s getting harder to afford a house in Regina and it’s happening incredibly quickly.”

Since Regina’s median income was $60,800 and the median house price was $212,600, based on the latest survey it now takes 3.5 years of income to buy a house in the city.

“That’s not a bad figure,” Seymour said, adding it’s even less affordable to buy a house in Saskatoon.

Peter Gilmer, with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, said he’s not surprised with the survey’s results.

He said since the spring of 2007, issues of rental costs, rental conditions and rental availability have comprised the majority of the ministry’s caseload.

“Certainly now that we’re down to one-half of one per cent vacancy rates for the city, the outright ability to get a rental unit is extremely difficult, let alone one that’s affordable,” said Gilmer.

He said this is the tightest rental market he’s ever seen.

Seymour said good economic growth and the lack of new homes built in the province are contributing to the lack of affordable housing.

“The price of building new houses is important when the city is growing,” said Seymour. “If the prices of new houses come down then that makes it cheaper to buy an existing house. Because people who sell old houses have to compete with the new houses.”

He explained that a tight housing market creates a ripple effect, which makes it harder for those with a lower income to buy or rent. However, he believes it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Just because there’s (an economic) boom doesn’t mean housing prices have to go up,” he said.

Seymour says loosening restrictions on development may help make housing more affordable in the city.

“(Municipal governments) need to look at their own policies when the prices start to rise and say, ‘Well, is the municipal government making it easier for the supply of new houses to meet the demand in our city?” he said.

Gilmer said increasing the supply of housing may stabilize rental costs, but other steps need to be taken to ensure this housing situation doesn’t happen in the future.

“We have to expand the number of social housing units,” said Gilmer. “We’re hoping that (of) the $2 billion that was announced Tuesday (in the federal budget) … the province will use what it can to put into social housing here.”

He said social housing is needed throughout the province because Regina is not the only city experiencing the crunch. Gilmer is also in support of implementing rent control measures.

According to the survey, the most expensive place to buy a house is in Vancouver where it takes 8.4 years of income to buy a house. The most afordable place to purchase a home is Cape Breton, where it takes only 2.1 years of salary to buy a house.