This Week at City HallSpeaking with media in February, Mayor Michael Fougere promised that the 2013 Housing Summit wouldn’t be an all talk, no action affair.

And when asked how his summit would differ from the two housing summits held by the province in 2010 and 2011, the Mayor replied, “I want to be clear on this, I will do the best I can and this council will do the best it can not to have a talk fest where you just talk and talk about strategies and go away and plan for the future. I want commitments and things that will work today for solutions.”

fougeresbighousingannouncementWell, at the Summit’s conclusion on Tuesday, he made his Big Housing Annoucement. In short, the plan going forward is…

  • Hold a second summit in 2014 on a theme that’s yet to be determined.
  • Establish a new committee called the Mayor’s Housing Forum that will be tasked with promoting housing in the city. Who will be on that committee, how often it will meet and its first action items are yet to be determined.
  • Put up nine city lots and two bus turn-around sites for sale to the non-profit sector to be used for housing.

So what do you think? Sufficiently action-packed? There’s a comment window below. Fill it up.

For those wanting more detail from Fougere on his housing vision, below the fold is an excerpt of the post-summit Q&A between the mayor and the stalwart women and men of the city’s press corp. Questions in there from Metro, Leader Post, CJME, CBC, Global, CTV and Prairie Dog.

Q: Can you talk about the new Mayor’s Housing Forum [the new housing-focused committee]?
Mayor Fougere: I think we need to continue the dialogue, continue the discussion. We heard some great initiatives here. We discussed this for many months on council. This is a way to keep this a priority on council to make sure that we adapt and be nimble in how we respond to market conditions, and how we do innovation in housing. It’s a first step of really responding to some of the things we heard about in the last two days.

Q: What will be its mandate?
MF: We’re going to flesh that out. But certainly what that is is to firstly distill and talk about what we learned in the last two days. The work that’s been done by so many people is not going to be lost on council or the administration. We want to make sure we set those priorities.

Then we’re going to talk about how do we actually in a practical sense have an action plan to remove the red tape in the decision making process to be quicker and more nimble to respond. For instance if we need to make a bylaw change for pocket housing, we need to talk about that quickly and make that decision fast, not wait and wait and wait. I think we’re trying to be as nimble and as quick as we can be to respond to what the market says, what the citizens of Regina say in how we go forward. The composition? Not sure yet. This will go to council for approval. We’ll think about how we want to have that. We want to have citizens on there for sure. Surely want to have council on there as well and of course we’re going to have administration on there to help guide us through the process.

Q: How quickly can we expect a committee to respond? The goal is to reach three per cent vacancy by 2017.
MF: Well if we don’t act now, we’ll never get there. The point is, we want an action plan. This is what the community’s been talking about. You heard that today. People want action. The strategy is there to some degree. So let’s start acting and doing things as soon as we can. It will take time. Yes. But if we do nothing, we won’t get anywhere either.

Q: Will this be faster than the existing system?
MF: That’s the intent. Make this more transparent, more quick, more nimble. But we’re going to respect due process. We’re going to have a way to move our process ahead more quickly.

Q: When will we see this set up?
MF: We’ll go to council [with it], if not his month then next month. We’ll go as soon as we can.

Q: Can you talk about the nine lots and two bus turn around sites you’ll be putting up for sale for housing?
MF: We have a lot of lots around the city that are orphan lots that are just there. And we’ve analyzed them to see if there’re serviceable and we think there are nine lots that we can make available to non-profit organizations for housing very quickly.

Q: What will be built there? Multi-unit buildings, single-family homes?
MF: I think we’ll leave that to the non-profits to decide that. We’ll look at the flexibility to make sure that we’re doing what we can to promote affordable housing across the city. And if they request a different zoning or a bylaw change, I don’t see that as a problem. These are non-profits providing housing, that’s what the whole point of this summit was for.

Q: How much will these lots be sold for?
MF: I think we need to talk to each one [each non-profit] and once we begin the process, we put this out to the market to see what’s there. Typically, we donate the land. But we can have a very low price for the land and service the land. I think it just depends on who is interested in buying that land. But we’re not going to inhibit that. The point is to get the land on market for housing right away.

Q: There were many unique ideas from other cities that were presented at the Summit. Any that grabbed your attention?
MF: I like the idea of the pocket housing that Winnipeg is doing. I think it has a lot to say about what we could do downtown for example, where prices of land are expensive and it’s hard to find affordable housing downtown. That could also be applied in other areas of the city where we’re looking for more affordable housing.

I think the issue of homelessness was an extremely interesting talk. And I know with our provincial partners we could maybe talk about what we can do there in the future. That is primarily the responsibility of the province with health issues and social service, those kinds of issues.

The Home First initiative can’t be done by the city, it’s really a provincial and federal joint initiative. Those discussions we’ll have with [the Federation of Canadian Municipalities] and the Big City Mayor’s Caucus to talk about what that would look like.

Those are just highlights. Frankly, I think the whole two days was very very good. We learned a lot of good things. It’s time we started getting an action plan.