I appreciate government is dealing with immense challenges during this time of great uncertainty. Governing can be difficult in the best of times. It is made even more so when it has to be done in the face of a global public health emergency. During this time of significant health risk, it is critical for implemented programs and services to safeguard as many Islanders as possible.
The announcement of the $1M Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit, while important and critical, does not go far enough to adequately safeguard vulnerable Islanders.
The announced program is modelled from an existing rent supplement program administered by the Department of Social Development and Housing. Under that program, there are 1278 beneficiaries and program spending is approximately $8.57 million. According to the most recent CMHC data, the average rent on PEI is $882 and there are approximately 6,375 private apartment units on PEI. The 2016 Census reported that there were 17,575 rental households on PEI.
The program offered by government will cover a maximum of $250 per household. This means government’s program comes up at least $632 short on the average rental cost.
Furthermore, at the maximum amount available to households, the $1M fund will only cover 4,000 homes. At a minimum, this will leave more than 13,000 homes without direct support to meet their rent obligations.
Government does have options to ensure Islanders who need the help can have their rent covered while they are waiting for additional supports or for the crisis to pass. These options were outlined in a policy document prepared by the Official Opposition and presented to government on March 31, 2020.
Among the recommendations made to government is a request to increase the total amount of support available and the number of recipients based on demand. This is not the time, or place, for government to come up short in how it is safeguarding the wellbeing of vulnerable Islanders.
Hannah Bell, MLA
April 2 2020