City of Regina
Saskatchewan CA

CW Public Report
CWC21-4
Approved as Amended
Mar 10, 2021 9:00 AM

Plan to End Homelessness - Permanent Supportive Housing Operating Grant

Information

Department:Parks, Recreation & Cultural ServicesSponsors:
Category:Not Applicable

Report Body

ISSUE

 

In April of 2020, City Council directed Administration to develop a funding stream to support the Plan to End Homelessness (Plan). Following engagement with local Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and analysis of the Plan, Administration recommends that the City of Regina (City) establish a Permanent Supportive Housing Operating Grant (PSHOG) that would provide $700,000 annually to a local CBO or partnership between multiple organizations to operate permanent supportive housing spaces using a Housing First approach.

 

Administration recommends that this grant be funded from the City’s Social Development Reserve (SDR) and that the cost be offset through a reduction in the $2.5 million currently available annually through the Housing Incentives Policy (HIP). It is important to note that City Council will need to consider a long-term funding source for the SDR as part of 2022 budget deliberations.

 

The City’s financial contribution towards new permanent supportive housing spaces will make an immediate impact in achieving the objectives of the Plan by housing Regina residents who are chronically homeless while not relieving the provincial and federal governments of their funding responsibilities under the Plan. It is estimated that $700,000 in annual funding could support the operation of up to 20 new permanent supportive housing spaces.

 

In addition, as the goals and objectives of the Plan cannot be achieved without the support of the provincial government, Administration recommends that the City call directly upon the Government of Saskatchewan to integrate a Housing First approach to chronic homelessness and contribute $1.26 million annually towards the operation of permanent supportive housing spaces.

 

The recommended contribution towards permanent supportive housing constitutes a change and new long-term financial commitment in how the City supports individuals experiencing homelessness. Operational funding to support the homeless in Saskatchewan is the responsibility of the provincial and federal government

 

Note: For the purpose of this report:

-          “Acuity” refers to an assessment of the level of complexity of a person’s experiences. It is used to determine the appropriate level, intensity and frequency of case-managed supports to sustainably end a person’s homelessness.

-          “Chronic Homelessness” is when an individual experiences homelessness for six months or more in the past year.

-          “Housing First” is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed.

-          “Permanent Supportive Housing” is housing for people with high needs related to physical or mental health, developmental disabilities and substance use and for those who will require long-term support services in order to remain housed. It is a critical component of a Housing First model.

 

IMPACTS

 

Social Impact

 

By facilitating the creation of up to 20 new permanent supportive housing spaces, a solution will be available to people who face the largest barriers to finding and maintaining housing. Increasing the availability and accessibility of permanent supportive housing is necessary to relieve the backlog of individuals trying to access Housing First interventions. Individuals who are successfully housed in permanent supportive housing no longer access emergency shelters. Regina’s only other Housing First model program is operated by Phoenix Residential Society and has produced numerous success stories (see Appendix B for one example). Further benefits in terms of cost savings are illustrated below.

 


Financial Impact

 

The recommended PSHOG represents a long-term financial commitment to the operation of permanent supportive housing by the City. Once established, any reduction in funding or failure to implement regular inflationary increases without taking alternate precautions will result in residents losing their housing and returning to homelessness. It is recommended that funding for the PSHOG be provided via the Social Development Reserve (SDR). The SDR also provides capital grant funding for the Housing Incentives Program and approval of the recommendations will result in a reduction of $700,000 annually in capital grant funding so this amount can be diverted to the PSHOG.

 

Cost Savings from Permanent Supportive Housing

Public System Interaction in Regina’s Housing First program (n=49)

Police Calls Reduction

81%

Arrests Reduction

89%

Days in Hospital Reduction

40%

ER Visits Reduction

75%

EMS Reduction

66%

Detox Visits Reduction

93%

Evaluation of the Housing First model in Regina has demonstrated cost savings through a reduction in calls for service and interactions with law enforcement, as well as lower rates of hospitalization.

 

There were 49 individuals housed by the Phoenix HOMES program from 2014-2018. Data from these individuals was captured through analyzing (with the consent of participants) the health and police system records of these individuals pre- and post-Housing First intervention. System cost savings represented in the infographics (see Appendix F) relates directly to the individuals housed by the program.

 

The Plan estimates that this results in 58 per cent cost avoidance from these services. Based on this, the City of Regina’s (City) proposed investment could result in a reduction in public system interaction equivalent to $406,000 in annual costs.

 

Policy/Strategic Impact

 

Direction for the City’s role in addressing affordable housing and homelessness is provided in Design Regina: The Official Community Bylaw No. 2013-48 (OCP) and the

 

 

Comprehensive Housing Strategy (CHS).

It is important to note that neither the OCP or CHS contemplated funding for housing and homelessness outside of the existing Community Investment Grant Program or HIP capital grants and tax exemptions.

 

Official Community Plan

Applicable polices of the OCP include policy 13.14 to “work with others to ensure that all residents have secure access to basic needs, such as food, housing and other services” and policy 13.15 to “participate in the development of a comprehensive plan to address homelessness in partnership with other levels of government”.

 

Comprehensive Housing Strategy

Applicable goals of the CHS include: 

-        Goal 27 to “continue to support housing and homelessness initiatives through the Community Investment Grants Program and identify ways to allocate funding for maximum community impact”.

-        Goal 28 to “continue to play a lead role in the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy by preparing the Community Plan to Address Homelessness” and;

-        Goal 35 “play a lead facilitation role in establishing and coordinating a housing and homelessness coalition of community stakeholders as a way of coordinating collaboration, engaging stakeholders and obtaining advice”.

 

Goal 1(n) of the CHS recommended that the maximum yearly drawdown of the SDR for affordable housing capital contributions be increased to $2.5 million in 2013 and gradually increase to $3 million over the next five years”. 

 

`              Administration’s response - While Administration is proposing that $700,000 be diverted away from affordable housing capital contributions under the HIP towards the Plan, it is important to note that the City’s overall annual commitment to housing/homelessness from the Social Development Reserve (SDR) would remain unchanged at $2.5 million. 

 

Administration is beginning work on an update to the CHS. The housing situation in Regina has changed considerably since the CHS was approved by City Council in 2013 and work is required to review and update the goals and objectives of the CHS to reflect current housing conditions. The update will include an evaluation of the City’s current financial contributions towards supporting affordable housing.

 

Truth & Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Plan notes that given the over-representation of Indigenous peoples among Reginas homeless population, Any action taken to address homelessness must be grounded in the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Administration strived to incorporate these principles into the design of the PSOG and will continue to work with Indigenous experts including Indigenous-led housing and homeless serving organizations throughout implementation.

 

OTHER OPTIONS

 

1. That the funding split between the new homelessness stream and the HIP be changed (e.g. provide more than $700,000 annually towards the homelessness stream and less than $1.8 million towards the HIP or vice versa). 

 

Administration concludes that the recommended annual funding amounts for the HIP and the homelessness stream represent a good balance between these two areas. Providing up to $1.8 million towards the HIP is sufficient to continue to effectively encourage the development of new affordable housing, including housing specifically designed for permanent supportive housing. Providing $700,000 towards permanent supportive housing would make an immediate impact towards ending homelessness.

 

At approximately one-third of the total funding for permanent supportive housing called for in the Plan, the City’s investment would not eliminate or substantially reduce provincial and federal funding responsibilities under the Plan.

 

 2. That the City maintain a $2.5 million annual allocation for the HIP and provide an additional $700,000 annually towards permanent supportive housing for a total of $3.24 million annually. 

 

As discussed under the Financial Impact section of this report, the Social Development Reserve does not have a sustainable funding source and would have to be funded through general tax revenue beginning in 2022. This option would increase the amount of a dedicated mill rate increase.

 

Administration also anticipates that contributing up to $1.8 million in capital incentives through the HIP would still be sufficient for the City continue to support the development of new affordable housing developments geared towards low-income residents, including supporting the construction of new permanent supportive housing units recommended in the Plan.

 

3. The PSHOG be provided to local emergency shelters instead of operating Permanent Supportive Housing.

 

Solely funding emergency shelters will not end homelessness. Although emergency shelters provide a needed service for many individuals facing temporary homelessness, shelters do not provide a long-term, recovery-oriented approach that supports the social or economic integration of those facing homelessness. Additionally, programs in Regina such as Housing First model program operated by Phoenix Residential Society have demonstrated strong outcomes including 58 per cent cost avoidance for service provision typically required for this population, including shelter usage.

 

It is also important to note that the City currently provides funding to emergency shelter organizations through the Community Investment Grant Program’s Social Development Stream. Over the past four years, the City has provided housing and shelter initiatives with $3,032,404. To provide additional funding through existing granting programs would not ensure the creation of permanent supportive housing spaces.

 

COMMUNICATIONS

 

Administration will provide a copy of this report and notification of the Community Wellness Committee meeting to local affordable housing providers and CBOs that support homeless populations. If approved, a communications strategy will be developed to support awareness of the funding stream to developers of permanent supportive housing.

 

 

Community Advisory Board

 

The City has used its position on the Regina Homelessness Community Advisory Board (RHCAB) to remain informed on funding decisions pertaining to the homelessness-serving sector in Regina.

 

Namerind Housing Corporation, as the Community Entity for Regina, is responsible for administering federal homelessness funding from the Reaching Home program and will continue to be engaged in order to ensure there is no duplication of services and that each funding source will continue to complement the other.

 

DISCUSSION

 

The Plan to End Homelessness in Regina

 

On June 20, 2019 a five-year Plan to End Homelessness for Regina was released. Community stakeholders collaborated in development of the Plan and identified the following objectives for Regina in implementing the Plan: 

-          Everyone has access to service when they need it.

-          People’s experience of homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.

-          Services are coordinated.

 

New, evidence-based Approach to Addressing Homelessness

 

Central to the Plan’s approach is integrating a Housing First philosophy that “housing for a person experiencing homelessness is not dependent on readiness or ‘compliance’ (for example, sobriety). It is a rights-based intervention rooted in the philosophy that all people deserve housing, and that adequate housing is a precondition for recovery.”

 

This is a significant change from the existing provincial homelessness per diem model which was established decades ago to provide funding to shelter organizations for basic shelter and meals. This model assumes homelessness is a temporary situation and those that require emergency shelter will be able to transition to more permanent housing using existing government services and programs. However, through Regina’s 2018 Point-in-Time homelessness count, 61 people (just under 50 per cent of those surveyed) were identified as chronically homeless.

 

The Plan emphasizes the need for providing personalized, wrap-around support services to address the nuanced needs and circumstances of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. In particular, the Plan notes that with almost 80 per cent of Regina’s homeless population being Indigenous, “the legacy of the Residential School system, the Sixties Scoop and ongoing intergenerational trauma among Indigenous peoples and their families means that homelessness [is] diverse and complex, often related to disconnection from land and waters, spirituality, culture, language, community, family, and identity.”


Roles and Responsibilities in Plan Implementation

 

The Plan outlines a collaborative approach to ending homelessness and identifies roles and commitments from each level of government, CBOs and service providers. The Plan identifies the following financial commitments from the three levels of government to be successful. Note that the $20,000 annual request from each level of government is for administration, coordination, and monitoring of Plan implementation efforts: 

 

City of Regina

Government of Saskatchewan

Government of Canada

-         Provide $20K a year to support Plan implementation

-        Provide $20K a year to support Plan implementation

-        Provide $40M over five years for new housing supports, assertive community treatment spaces, intensive case management spaces and permanent supportive housing and affordable housing units

-        Provide $20K a year to support Plan implementation

-        Expansion of Reaching Home funding

-        Support development of permanent supportive housing spaces through the National Housing Strategy

 

Cost Assumptions

 

The Plan identifies operational and capital needs to create permanent supportive housing spaces in Regina. Within this, estimates for both of these components are provided, including an estimate of $35,000 per unit annually required in operational funding. For reference the Phoenix HOMES program has operated at approximately $31k per space.

 

Commitments to the Plan

 

On April 29, 2020, City Council endorsed the Plan and approved a City contribution of $20,000 a year through the annual budget process towards implementation of the Plan.

 

Since the Plan was released, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government expanded funding through Reaching Home: Canadas Homelessness Strategy to Regina. The federal government also launched the Rapid Housing Initiative program that made available new capital funding for the construction of new permanent supportive housing units; however, at the time of writing this report it has not been confirmed if any Regina projects have been funded. 

 

As of the writing of this report, the provincial government has not made any new financial commitment towards the construction or operation of permanent supportive housing.

 

Other Jurisdictions

 

In recent years communities across Canada have developed and implemented Plans to

End Homelessness. These plans seek to end chronic homelessness through actions taken by governments, community service providers, the community as well as the private sector, and they include:

 

-          Evidence-based initiatives to address chronic homelessness (Housing First);

-          Plans to develop housing infrastructure (including permanent supportive housing);

-          Outcomes-based planning measures; and

-          Prevention activities.

 

Through a jurisdictional scan, Administration did not find any example of a municipality directly contributing to the cost of operating permanent supportive housing, where responsibility and funding were not explicitly downloaded by the respective provincial government.

 

As outlined in Appendix E, the Provincial Governments of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario have made investments to directly increase access to supportive housing through provincial policy frameworks in alignment with Housing First principles.

 

Engagement with Homelessness CBO

 

Survey

 

Administration circulated a short survey to CBOs that support the homeless to gather their feedback on the proposed PSHOG. Ten responses were received. Through this survey, lack of income and/or rent support was the most cited factor in contributing to homelessness in Regina, followed by lack of affordable rental units and lack of permanent supportive housing.

 

Focus Group

 

In developing its recommendation, Administration retained an external consultant to lead a focus group with local CBOs that support people experiencing homelessness. The focus group included 22 representatives from a diverse group of local CBO’s as well as the Ministry of Social Services. A summary report of the feedback received through this focus group is included in Appendix C. Key messages received from this discussion included:

 

-          Positive Impact of Permanent Supportive Housing for Service Providers Stakeholders agreed that the increase in permanent supportive housing would have a positive impact on the City’s homelessness service sector as a whole. Stakeholders noted cost savings of permanent supportive housing by reducing interactions with City and Provincial emergency services as well as benefiting CBO’s by freeing up space in other programming and crisis shelters.

 

-          Need for Flexible / Individualized Supports Stakeholders commented that, while everyone has the same basic needs (shelter, food, security etc.), it is important that permanent supportive housing includes additional supports to fit each person’s individual needs including managed alcohol programs, safe consumption sites or other harm reduction services. It was also noted to not overlook providing simple amenities like internet access. 

 

-          Ability to Transition to Non-Supportive Housing – Several stakeholders commented that due to the complex needs of chronically homeless individuals, it is not reasonable to expect that they will be able to transition to non-supportive units.

 

-          Need for Partnerships / Communication - Many highlighted the importance of working with the Ministry of Social Services to ensure sufficient support.

 

-          Variable Costs of Operating Permanent Supportive Housing – Stakeholders questioned the initially proposed $30,000/space (plus 10 per cent administration expenses) estimate to operate a permanent supportive housing in Regina, noting that actual operational costs is largely contingent on two factors; how the City defines what is considered an operational cost (e.g. whether the $30,000/year is intended to cover things like food and rent) and economies of scale (e.g. grouping all permanent supportive housing spaces in a single building makes it easier to staff 24 hours a day, reducing operational costs).  

 

-          Barriers to Operating Permanent Supportive Housing – Stakeholders noted many landlords are reluctant to rent to individuals on social assistance. This issue has been exaggerated by the provincial government’s decision to no longer provide social assistance recipients the option of having direct landlord payments. Participants agreed that to ensure a successful partnership with private landlords two things are critical: transparency and communication.

 

Implementation of the PSHOG

Selecting the Community-Based Organization

 

The City will undertake a competitive process to select a community-based organization to operate the permanent supportive housing program. Applications will be assessed by a selection committee on a number of criteria. The criteria can be found in Appendix A.

 

The selection committee will include external subject matter experts in homelessness and housing of vulnerable populations. Administration will ensure there is diverse expertise within the group, including Indigenous representation

 

Managing the Community Based Organization

 

The successful CBO will enter into a five-year funding agreement with the City. Due to the acquisition of capital required for implementing permanent supportive housing and ongoing staffing and administrative costs, five years is deemed appropriate for ensuring the success of such a project. A five-year funding agreement that is up for renewal upon agreement by both parties allows adequate security in financial sustainability planning on the part of the CBO, while providing opportunity for reviewal, renewal and change where necessary. Additionally, because permanent supportive housing requires a long-term commitment to residents placed in the program, there is a need to ensure the continuity of care is reflected in the funding agreement.

 

The CBO will be required to report annually on the operation of the supportive housing units. Additionally, a mid-year funder meeting will be conducted for the organization to report mid-year data outputs, spending and project updates.

 

 

Housing Incentives Policy

 

Engagement with Local Affordable Housing Providers

 

Survey

 

Administration circulated a short survey to local housing providers to gather their feedback on the proposed PSHOG, including potential impacts on the HIP. Ten responses were received. Given the diverse group of housing providers that completed the survey, the City received a range of responses. However, two key takeaways from the survey were:

-          Two thirds of respondents indicated that they saw the need for new affordable housing units increasing in the future.

-          To offset the impact of diverting funding from the HIP to the PSHOG, only one respondent selected decreasing the amount of capital funding available per unit under the HIP. The majority of respondents selected either decreasing the total number of capital grants available each year or increasing the maximum score required to qualify for capital grants under the HIP scorecard.  

 

Focus Group

 

A focus group was also held with local private sector and non-profit affordable housing providers as well as representation from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation to understand the impacts of diverting funding from the HIP to the proposed PSHOG. A summary report of the feedback received through this focus group is included in Appendix D. Key messages received form this focus group include:

-          Importance of Housing Incentives - Participants emphasized that funding supports are vital to being able to provide affordable housing. The Citys contribution is often integral for affordable housing providers to access Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation incentive programs.

 

-          Need to consider the full Housing Spectrum Stakeholders noted that households struggle with affordability across the housing spectrum and that in diverting funding towards homelessness, there is a direct trade-off for low to moderate households that benefit from the City’s below market rental and home ownership programs. 

 

-          City needs to Clearly Define Housing Objectives – Stakeholders commented that without understanding the specific goals and objectives the City is trying to accomplish through the HIP, it is challenging for them to provide feedback on the impacts of adjusting funding levels.

 

Through this focus group, Administration also received feedback on how to improve the HIP to better support the creation of new permanent supportive housing units. This feedback was considered by Administration in developing and preparing minor amendments to the HIP in Q1:2021 and will also be considered during future evaluations of the HIP.

 

Recommended Amendment to Housing Incentives Policy

 

Administration recommends that the HIP be amended to decrease the maximum year expenditure from $2.5 million to $1.8 million to offset the costs of implementing the PSHOG. This amendment would reduce the number of capital grants the City can approve through the HIP annually. There would be no impact on the HIP’s property tax exemption programs, including the market rental and rental repair tax exemption programs.

 

With a current annual allotment of $2.5 million and capital grant amounts ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 per door[1], the City can commit funding for the creation of between 100 to 250 new units per year. A reduction to $1.80 million would reduce the number of new units to between 70-175 new units per year.

 

Administration anticipates that a maximum annual capital commitment of $1.8M will continue to support the development of new affordable rental units geared towards low-income residents, including supporting the construction of new permanent supportive housing units recommended in the Plan. The reallocation of $700,000 toward homelessness recognizes that, under current housing conditions, ending housing insecurity in Regina requires both operating and capital funding supports. As the HIP only provides funding to assist with the capital construction costs of new developments, units built with HIP funding can also be operated under the PSHOG.

 

Following additional feedback from local housing providers, Administration will bring forward a Report in Q4 2021 identifying any additional revisions to the Housing Incentives Policy to mitigate the impact of a funding reduction.

 

Amendment to Regina Administration Bylaw

 

The City’s Administration Bylaw establishes policies and practices for the administration of City reserves as well as defines the powers, duties, accountabilities and functions of certain City officials and employees. The Bylaw states that transfers from the SDR can be made for capital grants or projects pursuant to the HIP or Council resolution, but currently does not provide authority for Administration to make transfers for operational grants. Therefore, an amendment is required to the Bylaw to allow the Social Development Reserve to be used to fund the PSHOG. The amendment by-law will be submitted to City Council concurrently with this Report.

 

Call for the Government of Saskatchewan To Contribute to the Plan

 

After the Plan was released in 2019, the Province has advised Administration that they are reviewing its recommendations. To date, the Government of Saskatchewan has not endorsed the Plan nor made any new funding commitments towards its implementation.

 

Administration recommends that the City call upon the Province to fully realize its commitments to helping end homelessness under the Plan, including undertaking a review of policy and programs that serve people experiencing chronic homelessness to ensure an evidence-based approach and attention to the unique aspects of Indigenous homelessness.

 

With the City proposing to expand its role in supporting the homeless by direct contribution for the operation of permanent supportive housing, this includes calling directly on the Province to contribute $1,260,000 annually towards the operation of new permanent supportive housing spaces.

 

DECISION HISTORY

 

CM17-12: YMCA of Regina Funding the Plan to End Homelessness in Regina

On September 25, 2017, City Council adopted CM17-12 to commit $60K in funding that would be directed to the Community Entity, the YMCA, to assist in creation of the Plan.

 

CR18-67: City of Regina’s Role in Homelessness On June 25, 2018, City Council considered report CR18-67, which provided an overview of the City’s response to homelessness, including measures to increase supply and decrease the cost of housing through the HIP, the Community Investment Grants Program which provides support to organizations and programs that address homelessness and participation on the Regina Homelessness Community Advisory Board (RHCAB). City Council passed a motion “That the City of Regina continue providing in-kind and financial support towards confronting homelessness as discussed in this report”.

 

MHC19-6: Plan to End Homelessness in Regina

On September 17, 2019, a report providing background on the Plan and its key content went to Mayor’s Housing Commission. At this meeting, the YMCA also provided their overview of the Plan. Administration committed to returning to Mayor’s Housing Commission with a more thorough analysis of the Plan.

 

CR20-23: Plan to End Homelessness: City of Regina Alignment

On April 29, 2020, City Council considered a report that identified new actions to advance the Plan. City Council approved motions to:

·         Endorse the Plan to End Homelessness and affirm the City of Regina’s role in homelessness as described in the Plan.

·         Direct Administration to contribute $20,000 to the Systems Planning Organization, as selected by the Regina Homelessness Community Advisory Board in 2020 and include future requests within the annual budget process.

·         Call upon the provincial and federal governments to endorse and fully finance the Plan to End Homelessness.

·         Direct Administration to develop a Housing and Homelessness stream with funding options to be considered through the 2021 budget process.

 

Respectfully Submitted,              Respectfully Submitted,

{Signature}

 

 

Prepared by: {ResUserUser1:First Last, Title}

 

 


[1] Capital grant amounts vary depending on tenure type, number of bedrooms, location within the City and whether it is developed by a non-profit or private sector developer.