Province must 'expedite' housing action plan: finance minister

P.E.I.'s finance minister says the housing action plan rolled out on Monday is focused on immediate, short-term goals.

'There can't be any bureaucracy in this,' says Heath MacDonald

P.E.I. Finance Minister Heath MacDonald says the new housing action plan will allow the province to do what it can to address immediate problems. (CBC)

P.E.I.'s finance minister says the housing action plan rolled out on Monday is focused on immediate, short-term goals.

The province announced an affordable housing loan fund and a down payment assistance program, along with five housing targets to be met in the next year.

"There can't be any bureaucracy in this. We have to expedite this process and we're willing to do that," Heath MacDonald told CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.

That directive came from Premier Wade MacLauchlan, said MacDonald.

Plan calls for 74 new seniors units

The targets for this year include 275 affordable housing units, 10 transitional housing units for people with mental health needs and 50 private nursing home beds.

By next spring, the plan calls for 74 new seniors units in Charlottetown and Summerside, as well as up to 10 transitional housing units for victims of family violence. It also calls for another 50 nursing home beds in June 2019.

MacDonald and Minister of Family and Human Services Tina Mundy made the housing announcement on Monday. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

The down payment program will provide a no-interest loan of up to five percent of a home's purchase price for "modest income" Islanders, and should be in place this fall, according to a news release.

'Alleviate that pressure'

Many Islanders are paying as much to manage their rental unit as they would for a household, MacDonald said, but they can't raise the money for a down payment.

"What we're trying to do is alleviate that pressure and allow them to come to government for a no-interest loan."

No income threshold has been set for the program, which has $2 million to work with right away, MacDonald said.

Community housing fund

The $3 million community housing fund can be used by municipalities, developers and non-governmental organizations, MacDonald said.

"We're open and ready for almost anything. We're seeing some trends right across the country on what's taking place. We think P.E.I. can likely build on those trends and maybe build something themselves."

But municipalities have to be on board for it to work, MacDonald said.

'Collaboration from municipalities'

"There's zoning bylaws, there's land use — things like that have to be identified and moved on quickly. We are going to need collaboration from the municipalities if we want this to be successful." 

There are short-term and long-term housing issues, but right now the province will do what it can to address immediate problems, MacDonald said.

"As a small province, we think we can accomplish a lot in a short period of time, and we need to. This is an issue and we recognize that."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Louise Martin


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