Finding permanent housing for Syrian refugee families is a challenge with the influx of newcomers to P.E.I., but officials with the PEI Newcomers Association say the search is going well. 

Seven government-sponsored Syrian refugee families have arrived on the Island in the last week and a half, living in Charlottetown-area motels and hotels, and eagerly looking for homes to call their own. 

Abdulrahman Jasem

Abdulrahman Jasem says his family of six is looking forward to 'a better life' in Charlottetown. (CBC)

"It's quite important first of all to have good neighbours in a good neighbourhood, and to feel a kind of security, so you don't have to really worry," said Mohammad Turshan, who landed on P.E.I. with his wife and four children Jan. 1. 

Melissa Coffin from the Newcomers Association has been taking stock of available real estate since November, searching listings and talking to landlords. She wants to ensure that families can find an affordable home or apartment to rent within a couple weeks of arriving on the Island.

"I know I probably have an inventory of 10 apartments still that are vacant that I know right now, they're ready for people to move into," said Coffin. 

'I am looking forward to having a better life than we had before, and I think we will have that kind of life in this neighbourhood.' — Abdulrahman Jasem

"So as more arrivals come, I'm not concerned. They'll be places for them to go."

Only units with cheaper rent are on her list, because government-sponsored families receive a maximum of $25,000 for all their expenses for their first year in Canada. 

"I'm looking at utility costs, so utility above rent, food costs, transportation, and how a family can live on the assistance they're given without being rent-poor basically," said Coffin. 

So far, Coffin has been able to find five of the seven families accommodations. And she's received some help from local property owners.

Local landlords helpful

"A lot of local landlords have reached out to me to let me know their availability, and also if they have houses they know or places they know I've been interested in, they've kind of held onto them a little bit," said Coffin. "So it hasn't been too bad."  

Melissa Coffin

Melissa Coffin with the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada says affordability is the priority when finding Syrian refugee families housing. (CBC)

The families said they are grateful for the assistance and are looking forward to rebuilding their lives.  

"I am looking forward to having a better life than we had before, and I think we will have that kind of life in this neighbourhood," said Abdulrahman Jasem, who also has a wife and four children. 

There are about 100 more government-sponsored refugees expected to arrive here in the next couple months. 

"We're looking busy," said Coffin. "We don't know what the arrival picture is going to look like, so we're just preparing for a constant stream of arrivals right now, from now until the end of February."

With files from Steve Bruce