FOR THE GAZETTE
County residents gathered in Benson Park Wednesday afternoon to discuss challenges, ideas and stories surrounding the lack of affordable housing in Prince Edward County.
The event, which ran for over an hour, was hosted by the Prince Edward Learning Centre (PELC). Several of its staff members, community members, and local media stood in a socially-distanced circle, sharing fears, lived experience and concerns around the housing crisis in the community.
Nick Monroe, a 25-year-old Picton resident, said it’s extremely difficult to find affordable housing options for him and his family.
He said between balancing bills, keeping food on the table and finding a long-term career, it’s a vicious cycle.
“I never thought as a kid growing up in the County that it would come to this,” he said. “It’s a fight and a half. I feel like I’m dying trying to live, really is what it is, and it’s not something I should have to do. It’s not something that I think any of us should have to do. We are a small community and we should be able to work together to figure out something housing-wise.”
Monroe and around 20 others listened and shared their experiences with local housing.
Around the circle was Kate MacNaughton, Prince Edward County Councillor for the Picton ward, who agreed that something needs to change.
“This is not a crisis anymore. This is a full-on breakdown,” she said. “Until housing becomes recognized by all levels of government as an important right, and something that needs to be protected above any other consideration related to our built-up areas in particular, then we are not going to be able to deal with it properly and we are going to continue to have instability.”
Linda Middleton, a County real estate agent, said she recently had to tell a young family for the twelfth time that they lost in the bidding process of a new home.
“It breaks my heart,” she said tearfully.
For Bethany MacInnes, PELC Lead Instructor, it was a matter of being fortunate for supportive family in the area.
She said her family were able to afford a second home that provides her a place to live, but that is not the case for others in the community.
Christine Kidd, a local resident, said after spending most of her adult life in the County, she moved to Belleville due to the lack of affordable housing.
“Because I had to move out of the County for a year, l was taken off the housing list that l was on for eight years. I am 48 years old on ODSP due to medical problems. l can’t find my own home that I can afford. My credit is good and my references are good. I am at a loss and it’s not very good mentally,” she shared.
Kathy Kennedy, PELC Executive Director, said the turnout at the event was wonderful and having the chance to hear from local residents about their lived experiences paves the way for more work to be done.
“We were thrilled to have so many people come out and hear about how housing is affecting them in their personal life, how hard it is to find housing, if they’ve had to move from the County, if they are living with friends or family right now, if their children can’t stay here – all really difficult stories,” she explained. “We want to follow up and learn more and make sure that people understand what’s going on. It’s a start, so we’re hoping that if more people want to share what is happening with them in terms of accessing housing, they can contact us at PELC.”
Kennedy said the centre plans to host further housing discussions in the future.