There are just four people on the waiting list for subsidized seniors housing in North Rustico, which is not a true representation of the need, says District 18 MLA Brad Travers, who hosted a town hall on housing related issues on Jan 13 at the North Rustico Lion’s Club.
Forty people joined Mr Trivers including housing officer Jillian Scott, from Social Housing and Development, and other provincial officials from Finance PEI.
Homes are getting pricey, not just in Charlottetown, but all across the Island and eligibility thresholds and subsidies are struggling to keep up.
For example, for a one bedroom in senior housing, the cutoff for eligibility is $29,000 gross, for a two bedroom $35,500 and for a three bedroom it’s $39,500.
In the private market the income thresholds are the same.
Ms Scott, who is also responsible for subsidized seniors housing in rural parts of the province including Hunter River and North Rustico, said while there were only four people on a waiting list for seniors subsidized housing in North Rustico, there were 467 in Charlottetown.
Mr Trivers expressed disbelief at the North Rustico numbers.
“When I first heard there were only four seniors on the wait list (in North Rustico) and maybe five or so (others that he knows of) for nine, I asked how can that be right? The problem is people aren’t actually going through the process. That’s one of the reasons we’re here tonight.”
He urged residents who need the subsidy to get on the list, or if they know of someone who deserves to be on the list, make sure they know about it.
He said he met with a group of seniors last spring who estimated at least 12 units could be filled in North Rustico.
Builders need that information in order to determine whether the market is large enough to sustain new projects.
“That’s the only way their going to get subsidized housing and it’s also the only way as a government we’re going to be able to fund developers to build subsidized housing in any given area,” said Mr Trivers.
People who qualify for seniors subsidies are 60 and up or 55 with a CPP disability income.
Maximum rents eligible for subsidies are $794 for one bedroom units, $951 for two bedrooms, and $1,118 for three bedrooms. Seniors must pay 25 per cent of their income toward the rent.
Ms Scott added there is a little bit of flexibility in the ceilings, depending on the programs.
Resort Municipality of Cavendish councillor George Clark Dunning expressed some frustration at the soaring rent costs.
“I’m not leaving here with any answers or hope…Good luck finding a one room bedroom for less than $1,000,” he said.
“The numbers aren’t real…There’s been fabulous developments in the Town of North Rustico. There’s some beautiful housing, but I can guarantee you none of them start at a thousand dollars a month and I imagine they are all plus utilities.”
Mr Clark Dunning suggested building a three apartment building could cost $500,000 and rent will have to be set a level that will cover those costs, which are probably higher than the thresholds allowed for subsidies.
Tenants will likely be responsible for utilities and heat which will take a big bite of their disposable income, he said.
Finance PEI officials were on hand later to explain to builders how they could tap into sources of financing that could help reduce the cost of borrowing and make it easier for them to get their projects off the ground.