Several factors cause housing crisis in Charlottetown

There are several factors contributing to the housing shortage in Charlottetown, according to the city’s officials.

At a recent public meeting, city planners presented 10 years of data from Statistics Canada and the city’s permit logs. Data showed that although the population has been steadily increasing since 2009, a huge drop in construction, especially of multi-family dwellings, hit the city hard.

Robert Zilke, one of the city planners, said that in 2012, there were 150 multi-family units built in the city, which decreased to 53 units in 2013 and 12 units in 2014. He said that nailing down the cause of the housing shortage is complicated.

"One was that we didn't have enough land zoned medium or high density, which is the R3 and R4 zones," Zilke said. "We were at the capacity for our regional well system, which they had to open up the second well to accommodate that. And then also, of course, expand the sewage treatment plant as well."

All of that caused fewer permits to be issued.

To be able to fix the problems, the city has recently expanded the well system, upgraded the sewage treatment plant and made changes to the planning bylaw that allows density in R3 zones. The city is also now offering incentives for developers who will build affordable units.

Zilke said all of that has led to more construction, especially in multi-family dwellings. There are currently 97 units approved, surpassing the 89 units built last year, but Zilke said that the city is still trying to get ahead.

Getting those units built is still a challenge, according to the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island (CAPEI). It pointed to labour shortages and other factors over the past few years, which have contributed to the housing shortage, according to a CBC report.

"Our designers are really swamped right now," said Sam Sanderson, CAPEI’s general manager. "Then you've got to, you know, find the workers to do it and, you know, is always a challenge no matter what."

CAPEI recently announced new initiatives to get more skilled workers on PEI, but Sanderson said that it’s going to take time.

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