Opposition MLAs concerned about lack of housing stock for Islanders

·3 min read
'We have a lot of people that are moving outside municipal boundaries,' where housing is cheaper, said Green MLA Michele Beaton. (CBC - image credit)
'We have a lot of people that are moving outside municipal boundaries,' where housing is cheaper, said Green MLA Michele Beaton. (CBC - image credit)

Opposition MLAs on Prince Edward Island are worried about people moving from other parts of Canada negatively affecting the local housing market for Islanders.

According to P.E.I.'s Department of Social Development and Housing there are 64,000 residential properties in the province and just over 5,000 of those have mailing addresses outside of P.E.I.

"It's not like it's immigrants or anything like that. It's a lot of people who have recognized that P.E.I. is a wonderful place to be and we're selling it that way," said Green MLA Michele Beaton, following a presentation by the department at a legislative standing committee Wednesday that discussed housing speculation.

"We also need to make sure that we support Islanders that live here and those that come to ensure that they have the necessary services that they require."

That means looking at the available housing on the Island and whether it's affordable for people living here.

'Two-way feedback'

"We're trying our best to find data sources and meet with different stakeholders to be able disseminate information into these other departments about what is happening in that housing stock," said Ryan Pineau, provincial tax commissioner for the Department of Finance, speaking during the committee hearing.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"We've begun to hold sessions with our municipal stakeholders for kind of two-way feedback which hasn't necessarily happened in the past on impacts on municipal levels."

Rising housing costs are also forcing Islanders out of in municipalities to unincorporated areas, forcing them to compete for land for development with farmers who need land for agriculture.

You ask a farmer if they can purchase an acre of land for less than $7,000 and you'd be hard pressed to find a farmer who can do that. — Michele Beaton

"We have a lot of people that are moving outside municipal boundaries. And understandably, but that puts a lot of pressure on the farmers that are farming and the agriculture," Beaton said.

"You look today and you ask a farmer if they can purchase an acre of land for less than $7,000 and you'd be hard pressed to find a farmer who can do that."

Officials from the department did admit that is an aspect that shouldn't be overlooked.

"Where development happens is an important part of the discussion," said Nigel Burns, director of economics, statistics and federal fiscal relations for the Department of Finance, during the committee presentation.

128 affordable units being built

Burns told the committee he and his colleagues weren't in the best position to speak to those decisions. What is pushing people to rural and unincorporated areas is something that needs to be looked at, along with whether more compact development in municipalities could help the situation, Burns suggested.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

While the province does have ongoing housing development, Beaton said she worries most rental units may not actually be affordable when they hit the market.

According to the Department of Housing, 128 units are being built within the next two years through the affordable housing development program. However, officials with the department said 1,300 units need to be added to the market annually to stay head of P.E.I.'s strong population growth.

Beaton worries that won't add up, given that the provincial population growth strategy aims to add an additional 10,000 residents to P.E.I. every five years, she said.

The housing Department plans to have more robust P.E.I. data presented in the next year through the Canadian housing statistics program, officials said.

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