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Reaction mixed after P.E.I. population and housing plan announcement

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Prince Edward Island's new population framework and housing strategy had a mixed reaction after it was announced last week.

The P.E.I. Liberals call it “recycled rhetoric” and “void of substance.”

The P.E.I. Greens say it's not new, pointing to their own 2019 housing recommendations, which outlined many of the issues in the documents.

“This so-called ‘housing strategy,’ states them as though they’ve just discovered them today, and that five years has created a terrible situation here on Prince Edward Island,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, P.E.I. Green housing critic. “Far worse than it needed to be, had we seen action five years ago.”

The plan came as a pair of announcements late last week, the first to cut provincial immigration nominations by 25 per cent, from about 2,100 to 1,600 people, 500 fewer than last year.

The second announcement outlined the need for 2,000 new homes on P.E.I. each year. The premier says only about 1,200 were built in the last.

“While we recruit new people into the industry to increase the number within the build, can we decrease the needle on the way to make a little bit more of a cushion?” asked Premier Dennis King.

King said it will give time to build infrastructure and services to support the growing population, fastest per capita of any province.

The Federation of PEI Municipalities and Charlottetown’s Chamber of Commerce came out in support of the housing strategy Monday, saying it's important to manage growth.

“Planning is key to address the challenges that come with our record population growth,” says Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities president Bruce MacDougall. “Much of that growth is happening in P.E.I.’s municipalities. They are vital partners in providing services that Islanders want and need.”

“We are also encouraged to see the release of a provincial Housing Strategy with action items to address access to adequate housing supplies,” said chamber CEO Bianca McGregor. “The shortage of available housing is a significant obstacle to our members looking to recruit and retain employees and grow their businesses.”

Government is aiming to reach a vacancy rate of two to four per cent. The most recent numbers have P.E.I.’s vacancy rate at 1.1 per cent, and just 0.5 per cent in Charlottetown.

Housing is just one of the things a growing population needs, and King said the province will maintain strong immigration in health, skilled trades, and transportation, while targeting instead reductions in visa for service jobs, which have the lowest retention rates among new immigrants to P.E.I.

For more Prince Edward Island news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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