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Rural P.E.I. thinking outside the single-family home box

A new housing development in Kinkora, Prince Edward Island is all sold out, as demand for housing is increasing rural areas of P.E.I. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
A new housing development in Kinkora, Prince Edward Island is all sold out, as demand for housing is increasing rural areas of P.E.I. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

The high demand for housing in Prince Edward Island has some rural towns expanding their housing stock, and many are making sure to develop mixed-density housing, like triplexes and apartment buildings.

The Rural Municipality of Kinkora, population 388, sits about halfway between Charlottetown and Summerside. Five years ago it built a subdivision and lots sat empty — but after the pandemic hit, that changed.

All the lots sold within two years, and now the municipality needs to create more, said Tina Harvey, Kinkora's CAO.

"We don't have any more building lots for sale right now in the community. We've expanded our boundaries," she said.

Need for mixed-density housing

Kinkora is also adding another subdivision with up to 28 lots, which will be a mix of duplexes and single-family homes.

"Demand is high. We also have a number of seniors in our community who are still living in their own homes, who probably in the coming years would like to get out of those large homes and into something smaller, but not leave the community," Harvey said.

The area needs mixed-density housing, said Harvey, and there is another lot zoned for multi-family housing that will include duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and seniors' housing.

Tina Harvey, the CAO for the Municipality of Kinkora, says another subdivision will be built because demand for housing is so high. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"We are a cheaper alternative to the cities," Harvey said. "We're also service-rich."

There's a new daycare centre in Kinkora and the community hall is under renovation.

The municipality uses a group called Kinkora and Area Business Community to handle development, which is filled with community members from Kinkora and the surrounding area, said Harvey.

"They handle everything, from our infrastructure to sewer to roads, the street lights, everything like that — and that takes a burden off of council," she said.

One member of the group, Len Keefe, said there need to be more housing options, as single-family housing is very expensive, and the demand is great.

"We want to provide the structures for them to come here and live and grow our community," he said.

The former Legion in Kensington has been purchased with plans to turn it into an apartment building including eight low-income housing units. (Laura Meader/CBC)

There's also growing demand for housing in nearby Kensington. A developer bought the former Legion building on Main Street and has plans to turn that into apartments, including eight low-income units.

Kensington Mayor Rowan Caseley said there are new units being built in the town, but supply isn't keeping up with demand.

Council is set to pass a new town plan and new bylaws for zoning rules in December, said Caseley, allowing for more housing with two to three storeys.

"When I talk to developers I'm trying to get them to consider building up rather than just always out," said Caseley. "Better use of land, because you can get more people in."

Continued calls for provincial land use plan

Although he said it's exciting to see more housing, Caseley doesn't want Kensington to grow too fast.

"Controlled growth is what you want, not just growth at any expense, and we're trying to keep that fine balance," he said.

With the demand for housing increasing in rural areas, Bruce MacDougall, president of the Federation of Prince Edward Island Municipalities, said the province needs a land use plan urgently.

"We've been looking for developments like this for many years," he said. "We've got to make sure we do this right."

P.E.I.'s Dennis King government has committed to developing a provincewide land use plan, but the current timeline on the plan's completion is two and a half to three years away.

It's good that the province is working on a plan, MacDougall said, but it's too long to wait.

"We don't need any more sprawl across the province," he said.