Ninety new affordable housing units are expected to be available in Charlottetown by next year, federal Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Monday morning.
The first 30-unit building at Ironwood Estates, on Kensington Road near Red Shores Racetrack and Casino, is slated for occupancy Aug. 1. Another two buildings with a total of 60 units are expected to open next year. The federal government provided a $19.2 million loan in support of the project through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporations's (CMHC) Rental Construction Financing Initiative.
The apartments are about 1,000 square feet and and each of the three buildings will include a common room. One will also include a fitness room for the use of all tenants.
Most are two-bedroom units, with rent ranging from $1,385 to $1,485 per month including heat, air conditioning and utilities.
Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey said the units qualify as affordable housing under CMHC guidelines because those monthly rents are under 30 per cent of the median income for Charlottetown residents.
Developer Paul Livingston said the rents are about 20 per cent lower than current market rates. Under the terms of the loan, he said, he is obligated to keep rents in the affordable range for 10 years.
Livingston said first 30 units are already full.
'Units not affordable'
A member of a housing advocacy group in P.E.I. said the units in the complex should not be labelled affordable, especially when considering the province's minimum wage.
"It's not affordable housing at all. The first question would be why would people be comfortable announcing that," said Connor Kelly, the tenant co-ordinator for the P.E.I. Fight For Affordable Housing.
"What they're really doing is making housing that's affordable for people who can match market rates, so then the market doesn't have to cool off the way it has to in order to be affordable."
Kelly said their group also disagrees with the federal government's method of calculating affordability.
According to the CMHC's website, housing is considered "affordable" if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household's before-tax income.
"For us, it means a rent that is 25 per cent of your income," Kelly said. "If you make $40,000 a year, a quarter of that should be your rent each year."
Kelly said the term affordable housing is subjective, and labelling housing as affordable can have dangerous impacts on the market.
"It then changes where people's expectations of affordable are, to the point that somebody might actually think $1,385 a month is an affordable rent for an apartment in Charlottetown," he said.
"That's like more than a mortgage for a house, which isn't really affordable."
For the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, the best solution is publicly owned housing.
"Continuing to give public money to private developers will never solve any housing crisis. I've seen it where public housing and public investment and public properties solve problems, but that's not what the government's doing here."
Kelly said another part of the problem is governments are more interested in treating housing as a commodity rather than a human right.
"Their interest is much more like they want to keep the economy strong by growing markets like housing, rather than understanding that housing shouldn't be a market at all."
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