Equality Report Card: Affordable Housing


Our Analysis:

In May, the federal and provincial governments announced combined funding of $13 million to build new affordable housing and help low-income households with renovations to their homes. This is the most substantial investment in affordable housing we’ve seen in a long time, and we look forward to seeing the funding used well and quickly for housing projects on PEI. This investment is urgently needed: people who live on the edge of poverty describe the housing situation as a crisis. CMHC estimates that 6,200 households in PEI are in core housing need (“Households which occupy housing that falls below any of the dwelling adequacy, suitability or affordability standards, and which would have to spend 30 per cent or more of their before-tax income to pay for the median rent of alternative local market housing that meet all three standards”). Of these, 1,800 are senior-led; 3,800 are renters (and 1,100 of these are seniors). PEI has the highest proportion of seniors with core housing need in Atlantic Canada, at about 29% of all those with core housing need.

There have been 132 new units of affordable housing built since 2003, representing an investment of $3 million. Of these, 64 have been designated for persons with disabilities and 14 for seniors. The November 2008 Capital Budget (for infrastructure/building/etc.) announced $3 million for new seniors’ housing from 2009 to 2011. Work is underway to determine the most appropriate use of funds.

Government has increased the income limits on a property tax deferral program for seniors from $30,000 to $35,000, a move that will make more seniors eligible for a program which helps them stay in their homes longer.

The January 2009 federal budget included funding for new seniors’ housing and housing for people with disabilities. Funding requires cost-matching from the Province, and they are reviewing the terms to determine future provincial contributions. We are waiting to see how the Province matches these funds.

Other recent cost-matched programs have relied heavily on community and charity partnership; of this, $700,000 will be spent on housing initiatives to be completed by summer 2009: special new housing initiatives for low-income aboriginal seniors, first-time aboriginal homeowners and First Nations persons who require temporary transitional housing.

We hear that many of the new physically accessible housing units are currently rented to people without disabilities, despite high demand for housing among people with disabilities. Policies for housing allotment may need to be reviewed with a disability lens; for instance, to ensure that people with disabilities who live with an attendant have this fact considered fairly when household income is measured.

PEI ecoENERGY audit assistance and energy efficiency grants programs offer additional assistance to low-income households (defined as household income below $30,000) and provide assistance to low-income clients in accessing the programs, through three program assistants. However, groups that work with people who lack livable income have been quite concerned about government’s approach to providing energy efficiency help for low-income Islanders. For instance, programs for renters are inadequate, even though many renters have low incomes and poor energy efficiency in their homes. The committee that the Office of Energy Efficiency struck to increase uptake among low-income Islanders took an approach that was criticized for lack of effectiveness, sensitivity, and social justice. It was focused on getting service organizations to do promotional work for the Office on a volunteer basis.

This is an excerpt from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women 2009 Equality Report Card for PEI, released in June 2009 and based on information updated to May 30, 2009.


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