PEI

'Tent town' draws attention to Island's affordable housing crisis

Charlottetown's Volodymyr Zahorodniy needs to be out of his current apartment by the end of the month and is looking for an affordable apartment. But he says he's struggling to find anything in his price range. He's not alone.

'There are people that are very close to this situation … there are people living in cars.'

Affordable housing advocates drew attention to the Island's housing crisis on Saturday. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Volodymyr Zahorodniy is in a situation familiar to many renters in Charlottetown.

He needs to be out of his apartment by the end of the month and is looking for an affordable apartment for him and his family. But he says he's struggling to find anything in his price range.

"I have no words how explain my heart and what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling," he said. "It's very hard to explain this."

Zahorodniy and dozens of others gathered in downtown Charlottetown Saturday afternoon to voice their concerns about a lack of affordable housing in the city, and throughout P.E.I. 

Volodymyr Zahorodniy is struggling to find an affordable apartment for his family of five. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

They camped out for several hours in Connaught Square among about a dozen tents — meant to symbolize just how bad the housing situation has become. 

In November 2018, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported a vacancy rate on the Island of just 0.3 per cent. 

Visualizing a problem

The event — called the "Town of Discontent" — was organized by the group P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing. Since last year, the group has been advocating for tenants rights and for solutions to the housing crisis on the Island. 

Earlier this week, the group outlined a list of priorities that it will use to lobby government.

Organizers hoped the so-called "tent town" would bring further attention to the issue. They say it symbolizes a real problem. 

Organizers hope all levels of government will take action to help improve access to affordable housing. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"There are people that are very close to this situation, that tent situation," said Jason Alward, who is involved with the group. "I mean you just have to look at the news within the last year or so. There are people living in cars.

"To see the people out here today is really heartwarming. And it shows the government that there is a growing concern for this."

'A voice to the tenants'

Representatives from the Community Legal Information Association were at the event, offering information about tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities. 

People were also signing a petition, asking all levels of government to do more to protect access to safe and affordable housing. 

Jason Alward, with the group P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, says the tents are a symbol of a real problem. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The city recently launched an online survey, asking for input on short-term rental regulation. However, Alward said some within the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing group weren't satisfied with the questions on the survey — so the group launched its own survey this week. 

"We hope to give a voice to the tenants that need the most help right now," said Alward. 

Fears of homelessness

For Zahorodniy, seeing the group gathered in the square gives him hope that people are talking about the issue of affordable housing.

But for him, the tents are more than just symbolic. He worries for him, his wife and three kids, it may soon be a reality. 

"In the end of the month I need bring out my family. So I don't know, probably we will open tent in front of the house, and we'll live there."

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About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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