PEI

Government process 'biggest barrier' to housing on P.E.I., says Opposition MLA

Opposition MLA Hannah Bell says the government process for approving new housing is too slow for developers.

'We need some immediate emergency action'

'We know there are many developers out there who want to be working on providing housing that is critically needed, they certainly know they've got a market,' says Green MLA Hannah Bell. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Opposition MLA Hannah Bell says the government process for approving new housing is too slow for developers.

Bell said she is disappointed the province isn't doing more to solve the housing crisis.

"The biggest barrier is the government process itself," she said.

Bell said she has been talking to developers who have told her getting through the municipal, provincial and federal government processes takes too long.

"We know there are many developers out there who want to be working on providing housing that is critically needed, they certainly know they've got a market," Bell said.

She said she has also been told by developers there is a lack of communication.

Housing crisis not new

The vacancy rate in Charlottetown was measured at 0.2 per cent in November and the "housing crisis" has been going on for years, Bell said.

"This is not new, the government may be you know, relatively new, though that shine has worn off a bit as well, but this crisis has been ongoing for years now," Bell said.

'The fact this is happening again is inexcusable, it is absolutely not acceptable,' says Green MLA Hannah Bell, of another summer with low vacancy rates. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

There are other challenges on top of the slow approval process such as labour market shortages, Bell said.

Government needs to put "its money where its mouth is," Bell said,  and has to work with those that will be developing housing in the province.

"Government needs to be an active partner in this."

We need some immediate emergency action whether that be shelters or transitory.— Green MLA Hannah Bell

Bell said she understand permits and zoning regulations are there to protect the public and environment, "to ensure everything is being done in a safe and appropriate way."

"But this didn't happen last month. This didn't even happen last year."

The Green Party released its housing framework last year. In it, the party identified what it believes are barriers to solving the problem and opportunities to finding a solution.

"We did a very clear framework, government can get the same information. In fact, they're quite welcome to use ours," Bell said.

Immediate action needed

Bell said this isn't the first summer some Islanders have had to live in cars and tents.

"The fact this is happening again is inexcusable, it is absolutely not acceptable," she said.

Green MLA Hannah Bell says immediate action as well as long-term solutions are necessary. (CBC)

Bell said P.E.I. is only a couple months from winter and the province needs to act.

"We need some immediate emergency action whether that be shelters or transitory."

Bell said there also needs to be a long-term plan to help with housing, which could include legislative changes.

Earlier this week, Minister of Housing Ernie Hudson pointed out recent housing announcements, along with expected upcoming projects to be announced in the next three months, will add 400 new housing units on P.E.I.

CBC has reached out to the province for a response to Bell's comments, but have not heard back.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Angela Walker

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