Lack of affordable, accessible housing a 'crisis' says advocate

A new initiative aiming to create a database of accessible rental units is getting closer to completion.

'They have a right to be able to find a place to live, at a rate they can afford'

Judith Bayliss is working on an initiative to build an inventory of all the accessible rental units in the province. (CBC)

A new initiative aiming to create a database of accessible rental units is getting closer to completion.

Judith Bayliss is working on the Home Base Project for the United Way and the PEI Council of People with Disabilities.

"It was something that's been necessary for a long, long time," she said in an interview on Mainstreet P.E.I.

Bayliss is now retired, but she worked at the council and said people living with disabilities were always looking for assistance in finding a place to live that would also suit their accessibility needs.

She said there was too much other work and never enough time to properly help those people.

"So when I retired, I became free and was able to concentrate on this, which has been a major issue," she said.

"It isn't too dramatic to call the situation that we're in at the moment — in terms of people looking for affordable places, if they have a mobility issue — it's a crisis."

'We need help now'

Bayliss said people with mobility issues need homes that will accommodate their needs, adding there are at least 100 people on a waiting list for help finding accessible housing.

"I don't have a breakdown of how many have families. All I know is that they have a disability which means that they cannot function in a regular apartment," she said.

Bayliss said the province provides 100 accessible units for seniors across the Island, but she says seniors shouldn't be the sole focus of work to make accessible units more available.

"A lot of the work is dependant on seniors, and I see my job partly to convince people that disability isn't something that happens once you reach pensionable age," she said.

"Many younger people need a place … they can't move away from their parents' place … because there's nowhere for them to go as an independent."

She also said wait-lists for accessible units tend to be long because once someone finds an accessible unit, they tend to stay.

Charlottetown has a bylaw mandating one in 10 newly built units is accessible, and in Summerside it is one unit out of every 12.

"For all the good intentions and the plans that we have, which I wouldn't demean in a minute, we need help now."

'They're citizens'

Bayliss said when the inventory she is building is complete it will be accessible online and kept up-to-date.

"It's an ongoing thing. Once this is done, it won't be done, sealed and delivered and pushed in a drawer, this will have to continue to be talked about because people will need to be constantly reminded," she said.

"The people we're talking about are Islanders. They're citizens. They have a right to be able to find a place to live, at a rate they can afford."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Kerry Campbell


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