Difficulties in finding housing in Prince Edward Island

This summer we are we are planning on relocating from Taiwan to Prince Edward Island, which feels more like emigrating than a simple move, and despite that day still more than 3 months out, and a year of planning, it’s proving to be far more “complex” than I ever imagined. I’m already losing sleep due to the uncertainty of what will come.

It’s a high risk move, a much larger challenge than when I left PEI, my birthplace, many years ago. Leaving Taiwan and China means leaving behind stable employment, good continued job prospects, a higher standard of living, and the comfort that comes from living in a region for almost 20 years. Ironically, one of the reasons I wanted to leave Taiwan, I left for this reason before but have returned, was due to work. In the tech. industry, salaries in Taiwan are the amongst the lowest in the developed world, work life balance is a problem, and industry growth stagnant. PEI doesn’t have a tech. industry to speak of and most similar job openings advertise salaries that are on par with what you might find here, less than in China, but with much higher taxation and a higher cost of living. Of course larger centers in Canada don’t suffer from lack of choice and low salaries, but Toronto isn’t home, PEI is.

The lack of employment opportunities in PEI came as no surprise, it’s known for its beauty and people, not for abundant industry. We are attempting to work around it by working remotely, starting a “wee size” business, and living apart for one year. One of us will stay behind in Taiwan to guarantee a stable income. Splitting the family takes some serious commitment.

What does come as a surprise is the complete lack of housing. The lack of housing is compounded by the fact that before we can register our children for school, we must provide a verified address, and schools are zoned aggressively, which if we are interested in our children attending a particular school, limits our choices even more. Our daughter taking the I.B. program at Colonel Gray or Charlottetown Rural, hangs in the balance.

When I first surveyed the rental market in the Charlottetown area many months ago I was primarily concerned with making a budget – I wanted to make sure we could actually afford to live there. What I found then was a grand total of 3 rentals that suited a family of 4! I thought it might have been an anomaly, but subsequent searches these past months have shown similar results. This morning when I looked across the whole Island the majority of ads on Kijiji were for people looking for places to live, not houses for rent, which while not remotely causal, might indicate that demand far far exceeds supply. Plea’s for help on social media also indicate difficulties in finding a place to live anywhere on the Island.

Buying is an option, but that market is difficult as well. And while I wouldn’t mind taking a risk on a cheap fixer-upper, these types of homes are rare in Charlottetown. Though the housing market is far more favorable than large centers in Canada, after your downpayment it’s cheaper to own on PEI than to rent, it’s still a significant investment and committment.

I can deal with some employment and business risk, we’ve embraced all kinds of risk over the years without any possibility of assistance. But the uncertainty of being able to have a roof over our heads is a whole new experience for me. Never in the past 30 years has there been any doubt we could find a place to live, until now.

While no plan survives first contact, hopefully this will all work out and the kids can start their new Island adventure in warm beds and a stable environment. I’ll just be sporting even more gray hair as a result.