EDITOR: Joe Byrne, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Dennis King, a candidate for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (PC) recently collaborated in organizing a Facebook event on affordable housing. Judging from the public response, it sent an important message to the politicians that Islanders are looking for a new way to do politics. Their dialogue demonstrated that the issue of affordable housing is not partisan but requires the involvement of all parties. It will take our collective energy, brain power, good will and pulling together to come up with workable solutions to this problem. The NDP frames affordable housing as a RIGHT. The party says that what is needed is an overarching strategy with a long-term vision that includes creative and varied models of public construction, ownership, management and maintenance of rent-geared-to-income apartments. The core of the NDP strategy lies in the well-established knowledge that public and not-for profit housing must play a key role in providing affordable housing for people living on low-incomes and has the added advantage of ensuring that the affordable housing will be around for future generations. This vision is sorely needed on P.E.I. The definition of “affordable” housing is not more than 30 per cent of pre-tax income. Based on Stats Canada, as cited by Rosalind Waters in her op ed of Sept. 14, 2018, 50 per cent of single person households in Canada cannot afford rent over $746. Working for $12 per hour in a 35-hour work week, a single person would only be able to afford $546 for rent. P.E.I. has the lowest average weekly earnings in Canada, and as Rosalind pointed out 30 per cent of all adults on P.E.I. don’t earn enough to pay more than $500 for rent; and 20 per cent of all families can’t afford more than $750 in rent, whatever the bedroom size. It is clear that thousands of Islanders can't afford rents which developers are describing as "affordable." There is an urgent need for us to step in and provide housing, collectively, which people can actually afford. And the NDP is the only political party which is promising to do that.
(Larkin is a member of Cooper Institute and Trade Justice P.E.I.)