The Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliance (ASHRA) was a ground-breaking research group that gave new insights into the housing conditions and needs of seniors living in Atlantic Canada. UPEI's Dr. Lori Weeks is using ASHRA’s data to create a similar report for Prince Edward Island.
“I think people will definitely be surprised by some of our findings,” says Weeks, Associate Professor of Family and Nutritional Sciences at UPEI. “We’ll be releasing them this fall, after we’ve had a chance to share them with our stakeholders. There is a real gap between what many seniors can afford to pay, and what the actual cost of housing is, especially in Charlottetown.”
Weeks cites a recommendation from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) that seniors spend no more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.
“Spending higher than that can mean seniors have a harder time affording things like food and health supplies,” explains Weeks. “In PEI, more than two in five seniors pay more than 30 per cent on housing, and a small percentage of those spend 40 per cent or more. It’s alarming.”
Much of this, Weeks explains, is due to the high cost of renting in the province’s capital.
“The average apartment in Charlottetown rents for $722 a month,” she says, “which is very high compared to the rest of the province. And many seniors choose to live in Charlottetown to be closer to doctors and services.”
Weeks says public housing is an option for some, but the waiting list is high—more than 250 seniors are on the list for Charlottetown alone.
“There’s also a real stigma attached to living in public housing,” says Weeks. “Many won’t apply who need to, because they’re embarrassed by what people might think.”
Weeks’ final report, co-researched and written with Lorraine Begley, will contain data about seniors and their housing needs across Prince Edward Island.
“We couldn’t help but make a few recommendations,” says Weeks. “I’ll wait until the report is released to discuss them all, but it does make sense to recommend some sort of public subsidy of privately owned apartment units. It would take care of the demand issue, and help remove the stigma of living in public housing.”
The full report will be released this fall.