The progress and vision of the fledgling Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation was brought to council’s attention during the first Regular Council Meeting of 2020.
Speaking to the horseshoe was Treat Hull, former councillor and President of the Board of the Directors, who reported on the corporations first year and their plans moving forward.
“We have an extreme shortage of affordable housing,” Hull told Council Tuesday. “ Employees cant afford to live here, which is a main factor holding back employers. Young people and seniors need to leave. In a situation like this, when there are a lot of newcomers in more expensive homes and families that have been here forever are forced to leave, it undermines our cohesion as a community.”
In his deputation, Hull cited several factors that have aggravated the affordable housing crisis in the county. According to Hull, the median house price has gone up 57 per cent between 2015-2019 and in that same time period, homes for sale under $300,000 have gone down by 70 per cent.
As well, the rental vacancy is at 0.8 per cent as of 2018.
Hull explained that, since its inception, the objectives of the corporation are broad.
“The objective is not to be the ones to do all the affordable housing, but to increase the supply of affordable housing. The mandate is very broad-anywhere from developing properties and operating rentals on our own, working in conjunction with developers and coaching churches or other community organizations that want to use their assets to be converted into affordable housing,” said Hull.
Based on their research the corporation has determined the priority should be affordable rental housing for employees and seniors, taking the form of one bedroom apartments, multi-residential housing being the most cost effective option.
The corporation’s initial focus will be building a large-scale multi-residential development at the site of the former Wellington Arena, a multi-plex development on vacant municipal land on Disraeli Street and pursing collaboration with other groups such as PELASS.
In terms of an operating budget, the corporation is proposing $135,000 per year for the duration of council, an amount that’s driven by the need for a qualified executive director. As Hull explained, there are easy-to-access capital grants but money for an operating budget is harder to come by.
“We are sensitive to the fact that council is concerned about the tax burden. We want to get the maximum housing with the least burden to tax payers.
The corporation is also proposing that half the municipal share of a proposed accommodation tax be devoted to affordable housing, an amount estimated at $200,000 per year.
As Hull explains, an increase in tourism has contributed to the rising cost of housing here in the county along with the an increasing strain on infrastructure.
“The tourists who are able to use our community should bare some of the brunt,” stated Hull, “Ultimately, we intend to explore innovative forms of funding.”