Summerside has created a new task force that will attempt to come up with solutions to the lack of housing in the city.
Mayor Dan Kutcher announced Thursday the task force will be made up of people in the construction and development industries, urban planners, housing advocates as well as himself, members of council and city staff.
Establishing the task force was one of Kutcher's campaign promises before he was elected to the office. He says to solve the problem of shortages, the city needs all the expertise it can get.
"To get good things done, you need to have good people and empower them to create change. And that's what we've done with this group — we have a diverse, wide collection of individuals," he said.
"There is no one expert on housing. You really need experts across the continuum. You need expertise along with these steps and I think that's what this task force really embodies."
The city needs at least 1,250 new units to meet the growing demand for housing over the next decade, Kutcher said.
Recommendations expected ahead of building season
The task force plans to make the recommendations by September, ahead of the 2024 building season.
During those six months they will engage with stakeholders and hold public meetings to get input from residents, Kutcher said.
Satyajit Sen, policy advisor with the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities, is a member of the task force.
He said making quick progress on housing will solve a lot of the issues the city faces.
"It will solve homelessness, it will bring people to the community, it will make young families stay in the community — without housing, they're likely to move out," he said.
"It is a complicated issue, but there are solutions."
Sen said there needs to be more local planning, and that governments need to work on policies that will increase density, particularly encouraging multi-family units.
Zoning policies, bylaws, and density and height rules are some things the task force will explore. They will also likely discuss finding land and getting funding for projects.
'There should be a lot more low-income housing'
For Ashley Banks, progress on this file can't come soon enough. She's currently homeless, and has been looking for a place to live for more than a year.
"I've been living on my own since I was 14, and I've always had a place. And the last two years has been the most trouble I've ever had getting a place," Banks said. She currently gets by couch surfing and spending a lot of time walking around to keep warm.
"It's crappy. It's cold at times, and at times I don't believe it's fair that there's no housing in P.E.I. There should be a lot more low-income housing than what is put out there for us."
Kutcher says the task force will look into all housing needs, including affordable homes.
"People need to be able to have a place that they can live, a place where their family can live, where they can grow, that's stable, that doesn't break the bank," he said.
"People are really struggling right now. So certainly there is a need for affordable housing. That is a piece of this puzzle."