Balancing competing needs in seniors' housing a challenge, says minister

Balancing competing needs in seniors' housing a challenge, says minister

The P.E.I. government is doing the best it can to balance the various needs of seniors who need subsidized housing, says Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy.

The auditor general's report released Wednesday found that hundreds of seniors on a waiting list for housing were bypassed for others lower on the list. The scoring system for providing housing was inconsistently applied, said Auditor General Jane MacAdam, and documentation was inadequate.

MacAdam said she was told that applicants who were bypassed often had addiction, behaviour, or cleanliness issues.

'We have a responsibility'

Mundy told CBC's Island Morning her department is the province's largest landlord, and it has to balance the interests of everyone.

"We have a responsibility to our rent-paying tenants to provide an appropriate and safe environment, that is, quiet enjoyment of their homes," said Mundy.

"Applicants that do have these various life challenges that don't permit them to have successful living arrangements, it is a challenge for staff to balance the competing needs of the tenants."

The department was already aware there was a problem with documentation, said Mundy, and is working to fix that issue.

Mundy said when applicants are bypassed, her staff will refer them to other services.

"There could be family doctors that are contacted, mental health and addictions, Housing First Program, and the Canadian Mental Health Association," she said.

Seniors population growing quickly

There are currently 900 seniors on a waiting list for 1,100 units, and the population of seniors is growing.

MacAdam found the number of seniors' units has changed little since 2001. The population of seniors has, in the meantime, increased dramatically.

In 2004 Statistics Canada recorded 19,288 Islanders aged 65 or older. In 2016 it was 28,092, a 46 per cent increase.

Mundy said the province hopes a new national housing strategy will start to provide funding for new housing on P.E.I. before the end of this year.

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