Charlottetown to receive federal housing funding — under 3 conditions

The City of Charlottetown must promise to let four-unit buildings be constructed in any city neighbourhood before it will receive federal funding to address its housing deficit.

That was one of three conditions outlined in a Sept. 25 letter to Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown from federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser. A copy of the letter was released on Tuesday

The measures are:

  • Allow four-unit buildings citywide, rather than requiring developers to apply for special permission to put them in neighbourhoods mostly consisting of single-family homes.
  • Look for ways to increase housing densification around UPEI and Holland College, meaning more students can live in the same amount of space because multiple-unit buildings are being encouraged.
  • Reduce restrictions on developments by doing two things: removing subjective measures that make it difficult for builders to understand what will be approved (an example is requiring new builds to fit in with the “character of the neighbourhood”); and removing excessive restrictions on homeowners putting in additional rental units (sometimes known as basement or garden suites) to let them be truly affordable housing options.

Fraser’s letter came in response to the city’s application to the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.

A city spokesperson told CBC News that Charlottetown planned to use any money it got from the Housing Accelerator Fund “to support the creation of increased housing units… [including by] updating the City’s Official Plan and Zoning and Development Bylaw to support increased density, and implementing an e-permitting system for building and development applications to streamline the process.”

‘We must push even further’

Fraser’s letter noted that Charlottetown has experienced one of the highest growth rates of any city in the country.

The minister did praise the city for some elements in the application. Those included the e-permitting project, as well as plans to reduce parking minimums to allow for increased density and affordability, and to provide redevelopment initiatives to spark much-needed higher-density multi-unit apartments.

“However, in order to help address the housing challenges in the city and to maximize the benefits of growth, we must push even further,” Fraser said in the letter.

Coun. Norman Beck, chair of Charlottetown’s committee on strategic priorities, communication and intergovernmental affairs, said the information is still “fresh” and the city is discussing how to proceed. It comes at a time when Charlottetown is reviewing its official plan, which includes a commitment to densification.

“We’re looking at things, seeing where it’s going to go and how things will emerge. And as we have those fulsome discussions, we’ll have a better idea as to where we’re going,” Beck said.

Norman Beck, chair of Charlottetown’s committee on strategic priorities, communication and intergovernmental affairs, says he’s confident the city can strike a deal with the federal government. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

He said he’s confident the city can reach a deal with Ottawa.

“I think we have the willingness to look at it together, look at it collectively and see which way we go — and ultimately arrive at the best decision possible for the city and for the residents that we have.”

‘A new urban landscape’

The provincial housing minister has also seen the letter, and agrees with its main themes. 

“We need to get used to a new urban landscape,” Rob Lantz said Tuesday. “We have to get used to more density, we have to get used to building up instead of out, be more efficient with our land use, our bylaws, our permitting processes.

“All of these things we need to work on and improve to create a better housing environment here [and] get things happening more quickly.”

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