Population growth outpaces land use planning, say Prince Edward Island MPs

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI — Although the population of P.E.I. has grown steadily and housing has been scarce for years, a land use plan is still three years away, according to the province.

The news was reported to the Standing Committee on Health and Social Development on June 29 in Charlottetown.

The committee heard from provincial Department of Agriculture and Lands staff as well as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHA) staff on the benefits of inclusionary zoning (IZ) and why the IZ should be included in future plans for rural and urban spaces in the province.

Glenda MacKinnon-Peters, the province’s director of lands, was joined by Eleanor Mohammed, land use specialist and owner of Strong and Resilient Together planners, to present the concept to committee members.

The CMHC website explains that an inclusion zone refers to zoning regulations that require affordable housing to be included in new developments.

“It usually creates housing for households that earn too much to qualify for social housing, but not enough to pay rents or market prices,” said Mohammed, who joined the meeting via video link from Poland.

Inclusive zoning is more effective at helping moderate-income households than very low-income ones, she said.

Several Canadian cities have implemented ZIs, although this is a new concept, she said.

Inclusive zoning is more suited to certain areas, for example high-growth urban areas, where developers will see an advantage in including low-cost units.

Eleanor Mohammed, a specialist in land use and protection law, joined the standing committee on health and social development on June 28 via video link. -Alison Jenkins

In one look

A standing committee recently learned how inclusive zoning could help build more affordable housing for low-income Islanders.

Josée Dion, a specialist at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said there are several signs that now is the time to implement inclusionary zoning:

• Rapidly rising house prices and rents in affluent and fast-growing communities.

• Stagnating income growth for middle-class families.

• An affordability crisis and rapid growth in prosperous cities.

• Lack of housing options makes it difficult to recruit workers.

Local area

The City of Charlottetown currently has inclusive zoning through a density bonus, Mohammed said. This is currently a voluntary guideline, but other cities have started similarly before making it an official requirement, she added.

Charlottetown-Belvedere MLA Hannah Bell said the housing crisis is not new and planning regulations have not kept pace with population growth.

“We lost development opportunities, very creative and exciting development opportunities because they just couldn’t get through the paperwork,” Bell said.

Mohammed said the province is developing its land use plan which will help.

“The land use plan is going to have the structures and policies needed for affordable housing and all of these different elements as well as for planning across the island,” Mohammed said.

It’s not a simple process, and a full plan will take about three years, Mohammed said.

National aid

Looking for ways to increase the number of affordable housing units available is key for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said Senior Research Specialist Josée Dion. She joined the committee meeting via video link with Alex Lamoureux, Senior Government Relations Specialist, and Marina Sloutsky, Outreach and Project Development Specialist.

CMHA’s National Housing Strategy aims to ensure that all Canadians have affordable housing that meets their needs by 2030.

That means keeping people at the heart of the work, considering community building and creating partnerships, Dion said.

The ACSM team described several permanent funding sources and highlighted seed funding for pre-development costs for new construction or for restoration projects. They also shared that the Rapid Housing Fund will return for another year.

Lamoureux discussed the bilateral agreement between CMHA and the PEI Housing Corporation to provide low and middle income Islanders with access to safe, affordable and adequate housing.

The current PEI action plan. runs from 2019 to 2022. In the plan, the PEI Housing Corporation pledged to preserve 936 community housing units, expand 140 affordable units and repair 187 units, Lamoureux said.

A second action plan is under discussion, she added.