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NEWS: Charlottetown chapter opposed to P3 housing project

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is spearheading a campaign against a proposed public-private partnership to build housing for seniors and people with disabilities. Coalition partners include the Council of Canadians Charlottetown chapter, the PEI Federation of Labour, the provincial NDP, and the PEI Health Coalition. Today, the Charlottetown Guardian editorial board states, “Few Islanders would dispute that providing affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities is a worthwhile objective for any government. Where there’s disagreement is how that goal should be achieved. …The coalition does raise some legitimate concerns. When government teams up with the private sector, what guarantee is there that the interests of those who will eventually occupy the new housing will be protected?”

While the Guardian says, “Government’s attraction to P3 is understandable,” they highlight, “the grey area is how much control over the properties and the management of those properties would government forfeit?”

“P3 opponents have warned on other occasions that when an initial agreement with government expires, the private partner may well decide it would be more profitable to run the business on its own. Would the occupants, the very ones who need affordable housing, become vulnerable to unexpected higher rents or fees? This is where the mandates of government and the private sector can conflict. We can’t fault the private sector for wanting to maximize its profits, but how does government ensure that the affordable housing projects it agrees to be a part of remain accessible and affordable to those who need it?”

The newspaper concludes, “The coalition is providing a useful service in this discussion by drawing attention to this question. The provincial government is wise to make plans for more affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities and explore ways of doing this that would avoid long-term debt. But in its eagerness to do meet both of these objectives, it must not abandon its responsibility to defend the interests of the very ones who need such accommodation. Government must insist that any agreement with the private sector will include the assurance of long-term affordability and accessibility. After all, isn’t that why government is involved in the first place? The public-private partnership concept is just that — a partnership. Government must ensure that it asserts its role in that partnership.”

The editorial is at http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Editorials/2011-03-25/article-2363378/Affordable-housing-must-remain-affordable/1.

An earlier campaign blog on this is at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6925.