Federal and Provincial Initiative Launches 220 Public Housing Units Amid Nova Scotia’s Housing Crisis

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In a significant stride towards redressing the housing crisis in Nova Scotia, the federal government and the province have synergistically launched an initiative that envisions the construction of over 220 public housing units. Despite this being a step in the right direction, critics argue that the scope of this project does not quite match the scale of the crisis at hand.

Halifax Regional Municipality Councillor Waye Mason applauded the Progressive Conservative government’s recent reversal in its public housing stance, marking a stark departure from their position just a few weeks ago. Historically, Premier Tim Houston has propagated the idea of increased housing construction as a solution to the issue while shying away from expanding public housing – a policy that has been adhered to since the mid-nineties.

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However, Mason cautions against heavily relying on market-driven solutions to address the affordability concern in housing. He asserts that while the addition of 222 units introduces some relief, it falls drastically short of the requisite – a figure that, according to him, needs to be closer to one or two thousand units annually. The need of the hour, Mason adds, is a significantly larger investment.

Finance Minister Allan MacMaster, highlighting the measures by the Houston government to incentivize housing development, cited the recent program designed to attract skilled tradespeople to Nova Scotia and the abolition of HST costs on new rental builds. Nevertheless, these measures are inhibited by a severe labour shortage slowing down the development process.

“This labour shortage is evident in our struggles to construct hospitals and schools, which are experiencing delays due to an insufficient workforce,” MacMaster noted, advocating relentless efforts to overcome this hurdle.

The construction industry, grappling with labour shortages, is struggling to cope with the burgeoning demand. Duncan Williams, the Construction Association of Nova Scotia president, said that the industry could instantly absorb 3,000 more workers, providing ample employment opportunities should the candidates qualify.

Williams further suggested immediate interventions that the province could introduce to boost development and alleviate the labour shortage in the skilled trades. One such measure includes raising the journeyperson to apprenticeship ratio from its current 1:2 to 1:3, where applicable.

“This minor adjustment could significantly bolster the workforce in the next 18 months,” Williams pointed out, emphasizing the urgency of this requirement. It showcases another small lever that could enact substantial change in addressing the housing crisis.