Friday April 25, 2014

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College searching for housing solutions

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Southeast Regional College president/CEO Dion McGrath. (Photo submitted)

The Southeast Regional College (SRC) has been collaborating with the City of Estevan, the Estevan Chamber of Commerce and other partners to find a solution to Estevan's ongoing housing shortage.

President/CEO Dion McGrath met with council in mid-December to update them on the meetings that he has been having since July on Estevan's housing shortage, with an emphasis on affordable housing. And he wanted to share some of the college's efforts to bring together interested parties to address the challenges associated with housing.

"The college is looking to build some local and regional support for the idea of addressing affordable housing for a number of stakeholders – business and industry, the community itself and the college for students," said McGrath.

But housing would not be constructed at the college's Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute. It's not zoned for residential units, McGrath said, so they won't build dormitories.

"We don't have any location determined or decided upon, and a location is the key element, but we have to do some proper due diligence in the meantime," said McGrath.

But the lack of accessible and affordable housing in Estevan has had an impact on the SRC. It hurts the types of programming that they can implement at their campus, which boasts the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute.

"The lack of places for learners to actually to live in, and to be able to afford to live in, clearly impacts how successful we are in delivering the right programs to train folks for the jobs that exist," said McGrath.

McGrath has also spoken to a child care provider on whether there would be an opportunity to have child care as a component of a housing initiative, since Estevan has long had a shortage of available day care spaces.

There isn't a timeline on when a report will be filed, McGrath said, or when ideas might be implemented. The college is currently working to meet its own student housing needs, based on the types of programming that they want to develop and implement.

Once they have that information, and assuming that it says there is a definite student housing need in Estevan, they will move forward with the more comprehensive business plan for a multi-stakeholder affordable housing initiative, and seek interest from local and regional businesses.

McGrath will speak at the chamber's next monthly meeting on January 8. He will articulate the vision for an affordable housing project that would serve multiple stakeholder interests. He will also submit the results of an economic impact report that they commissioned on the activity in the Bakken oil play, and how it impacts Estevan and the province as a whole.

The SRC has yet to be impacted by a housing shortage in Weyburn like they have in Estevan. McGrath said they will be paying close attention to the results of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's semi-annual rental survey for Weyburn, now that Weyburn is included.

The latest report from CMHC says that Weyburn's rental vacancy was the lowest in the province at 1.5 per cent.


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