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Federal housing funds 'wading into provincial jurisdiction' according to Sask. gov't

A funding announcement took place on April 3, 2024 at the future site of North Central's newest apartment complex and community centre. (Hallee Mandryk/CTV News) A funding announcement took place on April 3, 2024 at the future site of North Central's newest apartment complex and community centre. (Hallee Mandryk/CTV News)

Representatives of the federal government were in Regina on Wednesday to announce the allocation of funding towards rapid access housing in Saskatchewan.

$6.6 million federal dollars will be going towards the construction of a complex located in North Central. The building will serve both as housing and a community centre.

The project is one small part of the $6 billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Announced on Tuesday, the fund aims to increase affordable housing in municipalities across the country.

The federal budget for 2024 will propose a new program called Canada Builds, which is described as a way for the federal government to leverage the $55 billion apartment construction loan program, ideally partnering with provinces, territories and municipalities to build more rental housing opportunities across the country.

This total comes after an announcement of a $15 billion top up to the program.

Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu spoke at a press event on Wednesday morning.

“I would hope that the Premier of Saskatchewan wants to pursue those goals for Saskatchewanians and I’m sure that we can find a pathway together,” she said.

The provincial government however, is not so keen on the idea.

“It is difficult for the province to respond given the lack of detail and consultation with our government or municipalities. However, it appears as though the federal government is once again wading into provincial jurisdiction by taking once unrestricted infrastructure funding and tying it to housing requirements,” it said in a statement to CTV News.

“While multi-dwelling housing may be a high priority in major urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver, it is not a high priority in most Saskatchewan communities, so we do not want to see this new fund come at the expense of infrastructure priorities in Saskatchewan due to our unique needs.”

Minister of Justice, Arif Virani was also in attendance and spoke to the topic of provincial pushback.

“Our hand is extended to people like Premier Moe, it is extended for the goal that we all share, regardless of where we are in this country, about building housing and building it quickly,” he said.

“But we’re also determined in terms of yesterday’s announcement and the announcements we’ve been making for the last week. That money is on the table, but that money is also going to be spent.”

Hajdu highlighted the need for action on housing now – saying disagreements between levels of government do not help matters.

“It’s disappointing to hear the lack of enthusiasm for another $6 billion towards housing,” she said. “But what I would say are residents like the one in this neighbourhood can’t afford to wait and they can’t afford to wait while provinces, territories, municipalities and the federal government bicker.”

Should the agreements not be signed by the province by January of 2025, the federal government will go directly to the municipalities to allocate the spending of the remaining $5 billion.

According to the federal government, $1 million will go directly to cities for urgent infrastructure needs, and the remaining $5 billion of the Canada Housing Infrastructure plan is going to be used for provinces who agree to allocate the finances to multi-unit buildings.

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