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Province looking to fill vacant government housing units

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Saskatchewan has the lowest rental vacancy rate in nearly a decade but the provincial government has four times more empty apartments than average, which has the province trying new ways to fill suites.

The Saskatchewan government has 1,000 vacant suites for rent in Regina and Saskatoon but you probably won’t see them advertised on Kijiji.

“Basically just saying for rent would imply that anyone can come in and rent it but we do try to serve people most in housing need,” said Louise Michaud, president of the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.

CMHC reports a vacancy rate of just over 3 per cent in Regina and Saskatoon, the lowest in nearly a decade. The public housing vacancy rate is four times that. The NDP think there are too many barriers to entry.

“That will mean relaxing the present day barriers. I know for example if you have utility arrears, you are not eligible for social housing,” said NDP MLA Meara Conway.

The government wants to address its high vacancy rate.

“We are absolutely concerned about our vacancy rate,” Michaud said.

It recently allowed single people to share units with roommates. Ten units were offered for rent and quickly snapped up. It’s also allowing younger people in seniors housing.

“We are using our housing units and our housing portfolio to provide the best possible service to people who are in housing need,” Michaud said.

The vacant units in Regina and Saskatoon represent millions of dollars in lost revenue annually. The current government has used cost as rationale for selling buses and liquor stores but has no plan to sell off its Regina and Saskatoon stock of vacant housing.

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