New affordable housing in Summerside begins opening to tenants

·2 min read

A new 70-unit apartment in Summerside is ready to start receiving tenants.

The complex is a mixture of 40 market-rate rentals and 30 subsidized housing units.

"For the people that have been waiting to move into their new homes, this is very significant," said Sonya Cobb, P.E.I.'s director of housing services.

"It's important that people have safe and affordable housing to meet their life goals."

'It's going to better our life'

In 2019, Cobb said the province set a goal of creating 1,200 affordable housing units over five years. So far, 742 of those have been initiated and Cobb said she is confident that target will be reached.

In Summerside, a young couple is eagerly awaiting their move-in day.

"We have been on the wait-list about four or five years," said Robyn Paynter.

"I'm going to be able to afford more medications if need be, I can get more groceries, I can do more things. It's so exciting, I can't wait."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Robyn and her husband, Jordan, are part of the social housing program where tenants pay 25 per cent of their income for rent.

The couple said they plan on being completely moved into one of the affordable units on Monday.

"It's going to better our life like financially as well as emotionally," said Jordan. "Less stress you know."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

But while Robyn and Jordan have found a new place to call home, across the Island, the province said 635 families remain on the affordable housing registry. In the Summerside area alone, around 160 households are waiting.

"We also have other units that are opening up," said Cobb.

"We're also looking at the fit of needs for people on that registry in terms of accessing mobile rental vouchers and supplying more benefits though that avenue."

'It's a huge problem'

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the vacancy rate on the Island jumped from 1.2 per cent in October 2019 to 2.6 per cent in October 2020.

Housing advocate Pamela Detlor said it's good to see improved vacancy rates — and more affordable housing units — but she said she wants more created faster.

"I think it's a huge problem, you know we're in a first world country we should be able to have somewhere to live," she said.

"A lot of this affects not just people under the poverty line, it's the working poor."

Laura Meader/CBC News
Laura Meader/CBC News

As for Robyn and Jordan, they agreed that additional affordable housing could help other people on the Island.

"I think there definitely should be more places like this around P.E.I., not just here but everywhere else," said Robyn.

"Everybody needs something to help them out."

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