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Hello Ward 7 Residents,

I hope you had a great weekend. I want to share some information about the Housing Accelerator Fund, which is going to be debated at our June Council Meeting. I know there is increasing conversation in the community about this, and so I want to make sure you have accurate information about what the program is, and what changes Council will be deciding on later this month.

I’m looking forward to the chance to discuss these changes further at our upcoming meeting, but because this debate includes a public hearing, I am obligated to keep an open mind and be willing to hear all of the evidence presented before I decide how I will vote. Below is an overview of some of the information I think you should know about this program:

What is the HAF?

As you’ll probably recall from previous newsletters, the Housing Accelerator Fund is a federal program which provides funding to cities to create more housing units. In order to be eligible for this funding, cities need to have an action plan about how to spend the money to generate a targeted number of new housing units. To be eligible, cities also need to agree to a series of changes to remove exclusionary zoning, or restrictions around certain types of housing.

In February, Saskatoon signed an agreement with the federal government to receive $41 M under this program, and now Council needs to approve the zoning changes required by the federal government in order to continue to receive the funding. The deadline to make these zoning changes is this summer.

Why does Saskatoon need or want to participate in the HAF program?

Saskatoon is growing rapidly, and we are struggling to meet the housing needs of all residents. In 2023, Saskatoon grew by 14,000 but only saw 2600 new units built. Rental vacancy rates are now below 2%, rental costs increased 9% over the last year, and all of Saskatoon’s shelters are operating at or above capacity. Despite setting a target for balanced growth, in the past 5 years only 15% of growth has been infill development. 

Participating in the HAF program will allow Saskatoon to receive $41 Million to create an additional 960 units (above existing projected new units) over the 4 year term of the program. The funding provided, as detailed below, will support the creation of these new units through a combination of incentives, improved processes, partnerships, and policy changes. The zoning changes will facilitate greater density inside the city’s built form, which is a more efficient way to accommodate a growing population and reduces the costs to the rest of the city for new growth.

How will Saskatoon spend the money?

City Council has approved the development of a number of incentives and policies to allocate the federal dollars, including:

  • Providing funding for supportive and affordable housing projects
  • Creating new development incentives
  • Developing a disincentive program for vacant properties
  • Streamlining approvals for supportive housing
  • Supporting co-locating housing with fire halls
  • Partnering with housing providers to provide supportive housing including housing for individuals with complex needs
  • Removing barriers for accessory dwelling units (secondary suites and garden or garage suites)
  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing in strategic areas by developing City-owned properties with a focus on providing affordable housing options
    • (note: I know there have been some rumours about housing being encouraged in parks throughout Saskatoon as a part of this project, and I want to emphasize that this is inaccurate. There is no truth to these rumours, and none of the City-owned parcels of land being considered for sale are green spaces like parks, cemeteries, or golf courses.) 

What zoning changes are being proposed?

The following changes are being proposed, or have already been considered by Council:

  • Reducing barriers to the building of Accessory Dwelling Units, like secondary, garage or garden suites. This change was approved by Council in April, 2024.
  • Allowing up to four residential units on a 50 foot (15 m) or wider lot in a residential zoning district and applying appropriate development standards, including setbacks and site coverage limitations.
    • Presently, most 50 foot lots can be subdivided, and those 25 foot lots are permitted to have 3 units each. So the proposed change would not increase the allowable units or density in most areas – instead, it would just change the form that those units would take.
  • Allowing four storey multiple-unit development within 800 metres of a planned bus rapid transit station with appropriate development standards and servicing capacity. A new planning area called the Transit Development Area (TDA) identifies the spaces within which four-storey multiple-unit development would be permitted. Another element of this proposed change is to permit six story multiple unit dwellings in Station Mixed Use and Corridor Mixed Use areas. You can see these areas on this map, and you can learn more about these proposed changes by watching this video.
    • Within the proposed Corridor Residential area, minimum site width of 15 metres and a maximum permitted height of 15 metres or four storeys is proposed. Measures to mitigate massing will be required for sites next to low-density residential use like single-family homes. Site coverage of these kinds of buildings would be limited to a maximum of 50% (60% on corners). 
    • In other parts of the Transit Development Area, multi-unit dwellings will be permitted where the site is on an arterial or collector street and the site is a minimum of 21 m. In these areas, buildings will have a maximum height of four storeys, and measures to mitigate massing will be required if the site is next to low density or single-family properties.
  • Removing parking minimum requirements from the Zoning Bylaw for development proposals throughout the city. This change will not be considered as part of the June meeting and is tentatively scheduled for the July meeting.

What happens if Council rejects the proposed changes?

The risk of Council not approving the proposed changes would be the loss of part or all of the federal funding, including potential repayment of funds that have already been dispersed. There is also a risk that we will not be able to complete our action plan, and that the necessary number of units will not be built.

How can I make my voice heard?

If you have questions, concerns, or would like to share your feedback with Council, you can submit feedback or request to speak at the meeting using this link. Council will deliberate these changes on Thursday, June 27th starting at 9:30 am.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you will feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you might have. If you’re looking for more details about the changes, the incentives, or any other element of the program, I’d encourage you to visit this page which has a number of resources, videos, and FAQs.