The City of Saskatoon will be draw on a federal affordable housing program to build an estimated 32 new units to support people at greater risk of homelessness because of the pandemic, or those already experiencing homelessness because of it.
All of the housing units will be targeted to Indigenous people, officials said Friday.
The units will be part of two projects with $7.5 million in funding through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, which aims to expedite the construction of new affordable housing.
Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said the partnership between levels of government, along with several community organizations, is important.
“It’s incredible to see both levels of government stepping up to work together, to work with Indigenous organizations, to work with our city, to really make a difference in people’s lives, and we’re so humbled and honoured to be part of this,” he said Friday.
The city and province were partners in the application process, and the units will be managed by two Indigenous housing authorities: Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. and Cress Housing Corporation.
Arcand said Cress Housing is planning a two-storey, 18-unit space for single Indigenous men who he said are overrepresented in the homeless population.
The other 14 units will be managed by the federation. Nine will be designated specifically for Indigenous women and their children.
The Cress Housing building will be located at 115 Columbian Pl. The Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. building will be at 1520 19th St. W.
Both Arcand and Shirley Isbister, president of Central Urban Métis Federation Inc., said the locations are close to services their organizations already provide, so accessing some supports will be easier for residents.
The majority of construction for both projects is expected to be done by fall 2022.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said these projects come at a critical time for the city.
“The combination of the pandemic and the intergenerational trauma that families have experienced, and that people are struggling within our community, the addictions issues that we’re facing, are creating a very, very concerning situation when it comes to housing,” he said.
Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister for housing and diversity and inclusion, said too many Canadians face “the impossible choice between putting food on the table or paying the rent.”
“That is a choice that no Canadian should have to face.”
Hussen said affordable housing is key in the economic recovery from COVID-19 as well.