Building bigger: Habitat for Humanity looks to help solve housing crunch on P.E.I.

Applications to Habitat for Humanity on P.E.I. have grown exponentially, according to the organization. (Tom Steepe/CBC - image credit)
Applications to Habitat for Humanity on P.E.I. have grown exponentially, according to the organization. (Tom Steepe/CBC - image credit)

Habitat for Humanity on P.E.I. is looking to multi-unit construction to help handle the Island's increased demand for housing.

The non-profit organization brings people together to build housing for those with lower incomes who hope to own a home.

Pam Schurman-Montgomery is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity on P.E.I. She said they've seen more people applying for homes recently and have had to bring in more staff to go through the applications.

Schurman-Montgomery said that's in contrast to the past, when they used to seek out applicants.

Submitted by Habitat for Humanity
Submitted by Habitat for Humanity

"So there is a little bit of a dramatic shift. From looking at past applications and numbers I'd say we're up between 40 and 50 per cent over what we've seen in the past," she said.

More people than not are living on shoestring budgets. And they're locked down in survival mode. — Pam Schurman-Montgomery

She said making decisions about who is selected is difficult — and a big responsibility.

"The consistent comment that we hear are the horrible and desperate situations people are living in ... the lack of safe housing, the lack of affordable housing, the cost of even repairs and maintenance and updates to housing," she said.

"More people than not are living on shoestring budgets. And they're locked down in survival mode for lack of other words."

Submitted by Habitat for Humanity Canada
Submitted by Habitat for Humanity Canada

Schurman-Montgomery said multi-unit or high-density builds could help house more families. It's something that Habitat for Humanity has been doing in other parts of Canada.

An Ontario success story

Julia Deans is the president and CEO for Habitat for Humanity Canada. She said the organization will always have single family builds, but said multi-unit buildings can serve many more families, on the same amount of land.

She said in Peterborough, Ont., Habitat for Humanity built a 41-unit condo building, with help from community partners.

"The municipality waived the development charges in order to help them get the property built. The land was donated by a family locally."

"We're hoping municipalities recognize the value of multi-unit builds and what that delivers to families living with low incomes in their communities," said Deans.

And she said there's another way the building is adding value.

"I think it lifted the neighbourhood, because it's a beautiful building, and it brings a lot of life and vibrancy to the area."

Submitted by Habitat for Humanity
Submitted by Habitat for Humanity

A need for land

On P.E.I., Pam Schurman-Montgomery said they are always looking for volunteers and donations, but when it comes to multi-unit buildings — there's something else they are looking for.

"Our biggest challenge right now is land ... It would make most sense if we were able to secure land and properties in areas where there is the greatest need, and often that's in larger centres, where land is at a premium."