P.E.I. organizations say rollout of national housing strategy too slow

P.E.I. organizations that offer affordable housing say the government's investment for low-income housing is a step in the right direction but would like if it came sooner.

'We're in a crisis mode right now'

Affordable housing organizations across P.E.I. say that they're encouraged by the $40 billion investment announced by the federal government for low-income housing, but that the need is too urgent to wait until after the next federal election. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

P.E.I. organizations that offer affordable housing say the government's investment for low-income housing is a step in the right direction but would like if it came sooner.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $40 billion investment towards affordable housing over the next 10 years.

As part of the investment, the federal government pledged to build 100,000 new affordable housing units and would repair 300,000 existing units across the country.

A $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit was also announced, that will provide families with an average rent subsidy of $2,500 annually beginning in April 2020 and concluding in 2028.

'[This is a] new, innovative plan that re-establishes the role the federal government must play in housing,' Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Toronto Wednesday. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The goal, Trudeau said, is to cut chronic homelessness in the country by 50 per cent beginning after the next federal election.

"Housing rights are human rights, everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home," he said.  

'You see the pain'

Bill Campbell, president of The Kings Square Non-Profit Housing Corporation, said he's looking forward to the investment in P.E.I., but doesn't think the help will come soon enough.

"From the applications that are coming by our desk ... they're coming by daily. We're in a crisis mode right now," he said.

"You see the pain face-to-face every day."

Kings Square Non-Profit Housing Corporation president Bill Campbell says P.E.I. is in crisis mode when it comes to the availability of affordable housing. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Campbell said he approves of the approach the federal government is taking by treating housing as a human right, but doesn't believe it's treated as a top priority.

"Any kind of a wait is not acceptable to us," he said. "But we have to realize that if you're a federal government, you have to prioritize where you put your money and unfortunately housing is not right at the top."

He said for The King's Square Housing Corporation, the additional funding could make a big difference.

"If we can get our hands on some more money, we can take a stab at supplying the housing that's needed."

'A step in the right direction'

Matthew O'Halloran, a property manager who oversees several affordable housing units in Charlottetown including The Abe Zakem House, said he was pleased with aspects of the government plans.

"As a property manager I was encouraged by the several pronged approach," he said.

"Any action that's made to increase and improve the housing stock in the market is a step in the right direction."

But O'Halloran acknowledged the need for more affordable housing on P.E.I. is great and that investment wouldn't be a fix-all solution. 

"Is it going to solve everything? Unfortunately probably not ... obviously we'd like there to be additional options out there immediately but things do take time," he said.

Provinces to pay half

About half of the total funding for affordable housing will come from the provinces.

The Department of Family and Human services says they have yet to receive details about how the investment will specifically impact P.E.I.

In a statement sent to CBC, the P.E.I. Department of Family and Human Services says it anticipates receiving more details about the specific impact to the province in the coming weeks.

There will also be discussions on how the strategy will impact each jurisdiction and how funding will be allocated.

"We look forward to ongoing collaboration with our federal partners and will continue our work on the provincial strategy here in P.E.I.," the statement said.

About the Author

Nicole Williams is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. She previously worked as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.