Council votes unanimously on list of projects thanks to federal funding for transit, housing initiatives
Regina city council has voted unanimously on how to spend over $9 million in federal and provincial funding for housing and transit initiatives.
In December, the city was notified they would be the recipient of $9,465,736 as part of a federal grant.
“It felt like Christmas,” described Mayor Sandra Masters. “When an extra cost comes in, it’s nice to have the money available that you can attribute to it to make sure that’s not one of the hold ups and that project can continue to be constructed. It’s a big deal.”
The grant is part of a $750 million proposal to cover municipal shortfalls in transit operating costs during the pandemic.
“The money got divided out based on ridership levels within each municipality,” said Ly Pham, the chief of staff to city manager Niki Anderson. “The caveat is that the province does have to cost-share that.”
From 2019 through 2021, the City of Regina incurred a $4.1 million operating deficit. To offset it, the city will put $4.065 million towards the deficit, by investing $3 million into non-vehicular trails to improve city-centre connectivity and an additional $1.065 million into future transit projects.
“We’re incredibly grateful,” said Mayor Masters. “When we’re putting pins in [projects] because there’s nothing in the budget, we can pull [this funding] out and be ready.”
$400,000 will be put towards improving access to transit shelters through the installation of concrete pads and upgrading shelters at bus stops.
The remaining $5 million will go toward various housing initiatives. Ottawa included housing projects into the eligibility criteria after cities across the country told the government last year there was a huge need for additional funds in that area.
“City administration tried to put forward a variety of projects to tackle multiple priorities that we’ve heard from council as important initiatives,” said Anderson.
A total of $2 million will go towards improving infrastructure for separate developments, $1 million will be for required upgrades at the new YWCA building and an additional $1 million for the old Taylor Field site so it may support housing development.
“It’s really nice to see the money go to somewhere you can see it,” said Ward 7 coun. Terina Nelson. “We’ve been wanting it. Taylor Field has been talked about for a long time.”
The city also said it has identified a building for sale that could potentially become a permanent location for an Indigenous-led emergency wellness centre. Administration outlined $3 million dollars to go towards purchase and renovation of the building.
“But we don’t yet have a permanent solution and an ongoing solution for those most acute and in need of services,” said Dan Leblanc, councillor for Ward 6. “That’s the solution we could’ve had in December 2022.”
The centre will focus on increasing capacity for a low-barrier shelter option, streamline access to services, provide second-level supports to individuals beyond emergency services and enhance coordination between community organizations and government.
“It’s certainly better than where we’ve been,” said Leblanc. “But it’s not as good as a permanent, stable housing going forward on a housing-first model.”
The city will now send the approved list back to the higher level of governments before the Jan. 27, 2023 deadline.
“I am really excited we’ve got these opportunities and feel very optimistic in terms of what’s coming next,” said Ward 1 coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk.
All projects must be completed by March 2024.
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