Housing changes needed in city for disabled citizens

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Wheelchair

Issues abound providing accessible, affordable housing for people living with disabilities

Editor: As a young, wheelchair-bound person living in Charlottetown for the last five years, I've come to the realization that this town - and much of the province - has an issue providing accessible, affordable housing for people living with disabilities.

When moving from my parents rural home in Prince County, I assumed that Charlottetown - being the biggest, most populated city on P.E.I. - would be a lot more diverse and adaptable to all kinds of people.

Being a bit of an optimist, and excited to finally make the move from my childhood home, I chose a less-than-accessible living space in hope that when I moved to the city, an accessible unit would soon be available. It was a rude awakening to sit in front of my laptop, searching for an apartment that would meet my needs, and constantly hit dead ends.

I realized that when landlords labeled their units as "wheelchair accessible," they meant that the apartment was on level ground and did not have stairs. I would often go to view an "accessible" apartment and barely fit through the small doorways - let alone maneuver around the cramped living space - in my wheelchair. This made me curious as to what the building guidelines of "wheelchair accessible" were, because these guidelines never fit my needs.

For the last five years I have not been able to access the basic amenities everyone else takes for granted. It's embarrassing to not able to take a shower in your own bathroom, or to be able to navigate and live independently within your home. No one should have to live like this.

The government does very little to help with funding accessible housing. I viewed a complex that had units built completely geared toward individuals in wheelchairs, but because the government denied funding to the project, the rent was outrageously high and I could not afford it. I've since noticed that this is the case with buildings in Charlottetown: affordable housing isn't accessible and accessible housing isn't affordable. Not everyone with a mobility issue is an elderly person living on a well-paying pension plan.

While lacking in affordable accessible housing, Charlottetown isn't lacking in over-priced condominiums, which, despite their alarming vacancy numbers, continue to be built downtown. I believe this real estate could be used more practically.

I’ve tried multiple avenues to acquire some kind of rent subsidy, or income geared option to help pay rent in these expensive units, but my application has been ignored or deemed unimportant over and over. I can’t help but wonder why the government will go out of their way to help one group have affordable housing, while ignoring another, when the latter group often have greater expenses beyond that of the average population. I'd hate to think that saving money by denying those with above average need, and thus expenses, is the reason.

So here I am, a young woman in a wheelchair, who has a mountain of unneeded stress on her shoulders because she is in desperate need to find a safe, accessible, affordable place to live. I’m only hoping someone will read this letter and that it brings on a much-needed housing change in the City of Charlottetown with regard to its disabled citizens trying to live a life with dignity.

Jennifer Coughlin,

Charlottetown.

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Prince, P.E.I.

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