More affordable seniors housing is planned for Cornwall, Charlottetown and Souris, the province announced Thursday.
Finance Minister Heath MacDonald announced plans for the construction of a 30-unit affordable seniors housing project at Cornwall Town Hall. The project will be buttressed by provincial grants of $1.3 million. Construction will be carried out by DL McQuaid Holdings Inc. on Fulton Drive and is expected to begin this year.
In addition, the province has issued a request for proposals for the construction of 20 affordable seniors units in Charlottetown and an additional 10 affordable mixed units in Souris. Lands have been identified for these developments, and proposals have been completed, MacDonald said.
"Our job as a government is to ensure that these people can grow older in their communities because that's where their families are," MacDonald said.
The province’s affordable housing shortage has had a severe impact on seniors. Many have been waiting longer than a year for subsidized housing.
P.E.I. is in the midst of a chronic shortage of rental housing. The Charlottetown area currently has a rental vacancy rate of 0.2 per cent.
MacDonald said the province has been working to address the shortages of seniors housing. Last week, the province announced plans for the construction of 58 new affordable units of housing in Summerside, intended for both seniors and families.
The announcements have been part of the province's housing action plan. The plan was released last summer, months after the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released numbers showing Charlottetown’s vacancy rate was below one per cent.
New seniors housing on the way
- 30 affordable units on Fulton Drive, Cornwall
- 20 affordable units on Pioneer Avenue, Charlottetown
- 10 affordable mixed units on MacPhee Avenue, Souris
"It is very pleasing to see this kind of initiative,” said Cornwall Mayor Minerva McCourt.
“We are on the move, we are growing and we are certainly trying to meet the needs of all of our residents."
MacDonald said the number of seniors waiting for affordable housing assistance has dropped by 40 per cent since last July. He attributed this to the high number of rental subsidies that have been distributed to P.E.I. residents.
The Guardian requested more information about this data but did not receive it by deadline.
Due to a lack of construction of new rental properties in P.E.I., the province has relied heavily on rental subsidies as part of its affordable housing strategy.
Over 700 rental subsidies have been distributed to P.E.I. residents since the release of the housing action plan.
Sonya Cobb, the province’s director of housing services, acknowledged that a booming housing market over the last year has not been matched by increased construction of rental housing.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation found that only 44 apartment units were added to the Charlottetown housing market between November 2017 and November 2018.
Cobb suggested the province’s developers have been worried about overbuilding, even in the midst of the extremely low rental vacancy rates Island-wide, and consistent population growth in both Summerside and Charlottetown.
"I think there's been a little bit of a distrust that the numbers are real, that the demand is real," Cobb said.
"They don't want to get in the position where I've built units and I can't rent them."
Cobb said incentives offered by both the province and municipalities are starting to have an impact.
"We've been trying to kickstart the market, basically, through the housing action plan and the incentives with developers and the work with various communities to help with the bylaws and zoning,” she said.