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Queen’s students present numbers on needs for housing in PEC

Story and photo by Sharon Harrison
The Prince Edward County Attainable Housing Network was presented findings Monday from its housing survey conducted by five business students from Queen’s University.

Around 20 people were in attendance at Bloomfield Town Hall, along with PEC Attainable Housing Network director Barry Davidson. Davidson is also the owner and CEO of Twelve Trees Condominium Development, and has a mission to build an affordable housing project in the County.

It is hoped the project, situated on the old arena grounds at Niles and Maple Streets in Wellington, will include mixed housing units, with a split of affordable and market value housing.

The Queen’s Business Consulting team, consisting of Tyson Kash, Song Yi, Rachel Klysen, Ushpreet Mehta and Phoebe Ho, have been working in collaboration with the PEC Attainable Housing Network for the past 12 weeks.

Queen’s Business Consulting is a venture managed by senior undergraduate students at the Smith School of Business.

“Since 1973, we have provided over 300 organizations and public businesses with unique consultancy services,” said Kash. This survey covered objectives, methodology, housing profiles, risks and biases and much more.

Kash noted the definition of ‘affordable housing’ used for the purpose of the survey is the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation definition of affordable housing. That definition is any form of housing that costs 30 per cent or less of a household’s pre-tax income.

He noted that monthly market rent for one-bedroom housing is $987, for two-bedroom housing $1,187 and for three-bedroom housing, $1,250, as defined by Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services (PELASS).

The affordable housing proposed by the PEC Attainable Housing Network would reduce those figures by 20 per cent. For example, one-bedroom housing would come in at $790, two-bedroom at $950 and three-bedroom would be $1,000 under Davidson’s proposal.

“Entering this project, we got a lot of information from Barry and his partner Garry [Lester] based off of the statistics about the County, and about affordable housing, as well as a lot of preliminary information to get a better understanding,” said Kash.

The team visited the County to conduct key stakeholder interviews which determined an extensive wait list for social housing needs, how businesses are unable to retain employees and how the tourism economy has reached its peak and needs support of service workers. They also learned the importance of generating mixed housing accommodations and that low-income employees were a priority.

Kash noted the current landscape in Prince Edward County showed an increase in median house prices, from $205,000 in 2008, to $395,000 in 2018. He also noted the increase in rate for private dwellings is two times greater than the provincial rate. And with the summer seasonal influx, Kash said it leaves a lot of neighbourhoods going dark throughout the remainder of the year .

The survey also showed a 60.6 per cent growth in registered businesses in the County.

“Again, this seems great,” said Kash, “but with the seasonal influx, a lot of jobs are going unoccupied.” He also noted that people find it difficult to commute from outside areas to fill these positions.

The survey also noted the County’s aging population, with the median age pegged at 54.5 years.

Yi discussed the demand for affordable housing, market rent housing and needs of business owners.

She noted the survey was initially distributed through the Prince Edward County Attainable Housing Network Facebook page and related pages, as well as being shared through a number of community partners, such as the Rotary Club, the Wellington and District Storehouse Foodbank and local churches.

Survey respondent demographics showed 19.7 per cent of respondents were in their 60s; 19.4 per cent in their 20s. Of those, 50.4 per cent work in the County, primarily in the hospitality services industry.

“In terms of income, the predominant respondent income bracket was $20,000-$29,999 range, which is on the lower end,” said Yi.

Family composition showed the most common respondents were adult couples, and single parents with one child – 54.2 per cent live in Picton, with 11.3 per cent coming from Wellington.

A total of 330 responses were received; 178 from individual households and 68 from business owners. It was noted that 84 respondents provided incomplete data, such as not providing income.

Of the 178 individual households who responded, it was determined 103 (or 58 per cent) had a need for affordable housing, with 75 (or 42 per cent) capable of affording market rent housing.

The figures were further broken down to show 18 per cent of respondents were on the verge of needing affordable housing, with 85 respondents (or 82 per cent) in dire need of affordable housing.

Of 10 age categories, the highest need is from those aged 24-30 years, followed by 31-37 years, then 38-44 years. The lowest need age category from respondents was 73-79 years.

Fifty-seven per cent identified as currently living in private rental housing, with 17 per cent living in temporary accommodation with family or friends. Sixty-six per cent of respondents were from Picton.

In the profile for those people capable of market rent category, 75 individuals qualified, which represents 42 per cent of eligible households.
Of those, the biggest need was in the age category of 66-72 years; followed jointly by 24-30 years and 38-44 years. Sixty-three per cent of these people were home owners, with 25 per cent in private rental housing and 47 per cent of respondents were from Picton.

Mehta discussed the key findings of affordable and market rent housing.

She identified 11 cumulative household income categories, the lowest being under $10,000 and the highest at $100,000-plus. In this section, the percentage of respondents capable of both market rent housing and affordable housing per income bracket was identified.

“We had a total of 178 respondents, of this 29.1 per cent we identified as need or are on the verge for affordable housing, and of those, 41.9 per cent would be able to afford market rent,” said Mehta.

She said one of the objectives was also to identify the demand from business owners, noting they had 68 respondents in this category.
“Of the 68, 27 per cent of business owners were unable to hire a potential employee due to the lack of affordable or available housing,” said Mehta.

The average respondent age was 34 years and the average respondent income was $30,000. “Sixty-seven per cent of those respondents were seeking full-time employment,” she said.

Mehta said with respect to the industries that they represent, this is classed as ‘other’ (which represents students, etc), accommodation/food services, unemployed and retail trade.

“The takeaway here for potential employees is, we had a total of 43 respondents, 86 per cent of these were unable to afford market rent housing rates, and 67 per cent were unable to afford attainable housing rates as identified,” said Mehta.

Klysen concluded the last segment of the presentation by identifying key insights.

Overall location preferences, out of six areas, ranked Picton the highest (at over 120 responses), followed by Wellington (at about 50 responses).

“On a scale of one to 10, average indicated interest in living in Wellington was four,” said Klysen. “The key information we can extrapolate from that is an on-going process for the County as it continues to press for the future, is the need to continue to build other amenities and services outside of Picton, and other locations such as Wellington.”

The next insight reflected breakdowns which showed desired number of bedrooms.

“We found there is a priority for single bedroom units, but the majority of respondents in the market rent focus were seeking three-bedroom,” said Klysen. “For the affordable rent focus, beside the one-bedroom, the majority of individuals were seeking two-bedrooms.”

The survey also asked if there were any other amenities or needs that they required.

“The first thing that we saw was a priority was parking,” she said, noting that 50 per cent of all individual households require parking. Additional storage space also ranked high on the list, with other categories including daycare requirements, recreational/play areas and handicap accessibility.

Additional needs included factors such as affordable utilities, easy outdoor access, service animals, and fenced yards for children and animals.

“In summary, we were able to receive 330 total survey responses over the course of one month, and of those survey respondents, 58 per cent of individuals identified as being in need of affordable housing, with 42 per cent of individuals identified as capable of affording market rent housing and 27 per cent of business owners were unable to hire potential employees due to a lack of affordable or available housing options,” said Klysen.

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