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Tents go up in Charlottetown to draw attention to growing housing crisis

Dee Miguel, with P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, helps Kels Smith, right, set up her tent for the Town of Discontent event on Saturday.
Dee Miguel, with P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, helps Kels Smith, right, set up her tent for the Town of Discontent event on Saturday. - Katherine Hunt

Charlottetown residents got a glimpse on Saturday of what their city could look like if the housing crisis continues to grow.

Tents filled Connaught Court in a demonstration of what could happen as a result of renoviction and lack of affordable housing on P.E.I.

The event, called “Town of Discontent,” was organized by the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, a non-profit group that formed last fall in response to the province’s low vacancy rate.

“Our tent city is demonstrating what options we have left for housing and it’s tents,” said Dee Miguel, an organizer with the group. “We’ve heard stories of folks pitching tents in Victoria Park, parking in their cars in parking lot because they’ve got nowhere to be and that’s sad.”

Some of the tents acted as stations. One was an information station to provide information on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. Another had a camera inside for people to tell their story about the housing crisis.

There was also a tent with a petition to end unregulated short-term rentals.

A craft station encouraged people to decorate items resembling Google maps pins. The pins said things like “housing is a right” and “living in fear of renoviction.”

Miguel said the goal of the tent city is to educate the public while helping entice government to focus on the growing issue.

“When they make a decision on public housing we want them to consider low income families, low income renters, who need something affordable,” she said.

Affordable, as defined by P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, is 20 to 30 per cent of a person’s gross income.

One in 50 residences in Charlottetown is listed on a home-sharing site, according to P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing.

One of the rising reasons for people losing their homes is renoviction, which is when landlords evict the tenant because they are selling or renovating.

“When their lease runs out they’re not being renewed and they’re being forced out with the guise that the landlord is going to renovate the space,” said Miguel.

Miguel said their group proposes that tenants kicked out due to renovations can have the option to move back in.

“What we’re asking for is folks who lived there get first dibs so if they do get kicked out because of extensive renovations, they can come back.”

Catherine Miller of Charlottetown attended the Town of Discontent to show support to the cause.

“I’m very worried about housing and affordable housing in Charlottetown,” she said. “I have several friends who can’t afford housing who are looking for places and there’s nothing available and I think that it’s a crisis.”

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