The government’s Headstart on a Home program, funded by the Saskatchewan Immigrant Investment Fund (SIIF), has been so badly mismanaged by the Sask. Party that it is currently saddled with $10 million in bad debt and has contributed to flooding an already saturated housing market, resulting in plunging housing prices. On Thursday, NDP Crown Investments Corporation Critic Cathy Sproule called on the government to answer for the program’s mismanagement and provide a plan to fix the mess they created.
The Headstart on a Home program was supposed to be this government’s answer to the housing affordability crunch of 2010-11, but instead of building the low-income housing that was needed, in keeping with the program’s intent, it funded new builds based on the average market price. The program only succeeded in running-up housing supply, without actually addressing the housing needs of low-income people.
“This Sask. Party program was poorly conceived and mishandled all the way through, not unlike how they’ve handled the GTH or Regina Bypass,” Sproule said. “We’ve seen so many challenges in the Saskatchewan housing and construction industries recently, and this program actively contributed to making them worse.”
Saskatchewan housing starts have taken a big hit recently, as Statistics Canada shows them down over 67 per cent compared to this time last year. Saskatchewan has the worst rate of starts in Canada and is one of only two provinces to see a decrease.
The Sask. Party’s PST hike on construction labour has also contributed to the downturn in the industry.
“Today, the housing market in Saskatchewan is struggling and the publicly funded program has millions of dollars of debt as the result of Sask. Party mismanagement,” Sproule said. “For whatever reason, Moe and the Sask. Party think they can use a government program to help their developer friends make money while forcing taxpayers to pay more. They need to be held accountable for this.”