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Progress update on long road to affordable housing

Council learned of progress on the long road to more affordable/attainable housing in Prince Edward County.

Chuck Dowdall

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Charles Dowdall, executive director with the PEC Affordable Housing Corporation, provided an update on his first 90-days on the job.

Highlights included work on planning for 30-35 rental units at the site of the former Wellington arena, a private-public partnership that could include 20 rental units within town limits of Picton, and investigation going forward to bring ‘tiny homes’ to the County.

The time frames for typical developments, Dowdall noted, are typically five to seven years; some longer, especially if appeals or planning aspects take more time.

In work over the past 90 days, “we have moved mountains” he noted of the independent corporation of 11 members, which the County is the sole shareholder – referring to administrative structure, policies, financial and budget planning, feasibility studies and updating websites.

Affordability in housing has reached a critical level, said Dowdell, noting a cost increase of 24 per cent against supply at an all-time low in a market with the average house price at $648,000.

In September, he noted the average bachelor apartment rent was $717; a one-bedroom $1,288; two-bedroom at $1,465 and a three bedroom at $1,988. The highest average market rent, he said, was in Wellington.

Affordable rental housing, he clarified, is that which costs its occupants no more than 30 per cent of their total gross income.

Approval for the transfer of the Wellington arena land was in June 2020 and finalization is expected next month. Meanwhile, studies are under way and are expected to be complete in January 2021. Dowdell says it is yet unknown if the current structure will be used, or if a new one will be build. All are to be affordable housing rental units.

He spoke briefly to the public/private partnership still in discussion and assured council tiny home talks will continue as a good prospect to tackle affordable housing. He noted they could receive expeditious approvals from the provincial and federal governments bent on improving housing and would provide entry level home ownership as well as rental housing for seasonal workers.

Representatives from the LoveSong housing project in Bloomfield also spoke with council seeking forgiveness of about $16,000 in carrying costs, a reduction of taxes during construction and pre-construction and a reduction in the water bill.

The costs were accrued following the County purchase the former Pinecrest elementary school from the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board when it became surplus, and the handing over of the keys last month.

They also asked council to update a letter of support written by the previous council, to be used as they apply for funding.

The financial requests will be reviewed in a staff report to council.

Filed Under: Local News

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