P.E.I. tenants face possible end to subsidies at co-op housing units

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 5, 2015

Janet Keen of Charlottetown feels fortunate to be in subsidized housing that offers an affordable, good home for her son and daughter, and the family dog Jake. Rent subsidies for more than 20,000 co-op households are scheduled to end, leaving residents at risk of homelessness.

©THE GUARDIAN/Jim Day

Janet Keen feels fortunate to be living in not only a decent home but also in a place she can afford.

While living with her sister for more than a year, Keen searched for an affordable home to move into with her 14-year-old son and her 10-year-old daughter.

The rent for most of the three-bedroom apartments she came across would have eaten up 60 to 70 per cent of her income.

She then heard about Westridge Estates in Charlottetown, a 16-unit housing co-op.

She moved in, and is pleased to have found a good home at a great price.

Rent costs only 25 per cent of her gross salary in her job working in the packaging department of Sekisui Diagnostics P.E.I. Inc.

The subsidy agreement is in place for the next 10 years.

“We’re lucky,’’ she says.

Other residents living in co-operative housing in P.E.I. are not as fortunate.

There are 13 housing co-ops in the province providing more than 200 homes. Nearly half of these co-ops receive subsidies that are at risk as operating agreements expire.

Housing co-ops face the end of federal operating. Rent subsidies for more than 20,000 co-op households are scheduled to end, leaving residents at risk of homelessness.

“The people most at risk here are Canadians with low incomes, the elderly, people with disabilities and new Canadians,’’ says Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada) executive director Nicholas Gazzard.

“Now is the time to put the proper measures in place so that a future crisis can be averted.’’

A landlord who did not want to be identified told The Guardian tenants of a multi-unit, three-bedroom housing complex in Charlottetown will have to start paying $200 more per month in rent starting in August.

The landlord says he had been receiving $200 per unit per month in federal subsidy. That is coming to an end.

“I don’t believe there is one tenant in there that can afford the $200 (increase),’’ he says.

Keen is not sure what she would do if faced with a sharp increase in rent.

She would need to move and/or get a second job in addition to her current full-time position.

“My thought is the federal government should figure out a plan to help these families (facing an end to subsidized housing) or put a new agreement in place,’’ she says.

Thankful to be in subsidized housing, Keen has been showing her appreciation by volunteering at the CHF Canada’s annual general meeting held this week in Charlottetown.

“Everybody should be able to afford a decent quality of housing,’’ she says.