Nova Scotia and Ottawa Unveil $83M Plan to Address Housing Crisis with 222 Public Units

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The Progressive Conservative government of Nova Scotia is collaborating with the federal government of Canada, Ottawa, to finance the construction of 222 public housing units. This action comes in response to the persistent issue of affordable housing shortages in the province.

John Lohr, the Municipal Affairs Minister, and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, confirmed in a Wednesday news briefing that these new housing establishments would accommodate 522 individuals. The beneficiaries include families, single persons, and low-income seniors. The housing units will be constructed on provincial land in Halifax, Cape Breton, Bridgewater, Kentville, and Truro.

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Lohr acknowledged the pressing necessity for more affordable housing in these areas, referencing a waiting list for public housing that is hovering around 5,000 people. The manifestation of the problem is starkly seen in the makeshift tents in Halifax parks where people have resorted to dwell due to the dearth of affordably priced rental units.

The province plans to break ground in the spring, targeting to have the first residents move in by 2025-26 with the full construction to be finished in the span of five years. The $83-million project will be primarily funded by the province with a contribution of $58.8 million, and Ottawa pitching in the remaining $24.4 million earmarked for energy-efficient housing.

The shift in the province’s approach is notable. Past governments have largely sidestepped the construction of public housing. At the same time, the province’s existing housing began to deteriorate and failed to meet accessibility requirements for older inhabitants and people with disabilities.

During the past year, Lohr has softened his stance on building new units after hearing about the difficulties, like asbestos removal, connected to renovating older housing. Consequently, he and his team deemed it prudent to partner with Ottawa for the construction of 80 new, accessible units. This decision also influenced further provincial investment leading to a total of 222 units.

Meanwhile, Fillmore believes the bilateral funding agreement signals Ottawa resuming its traditional role as a champion for affordable housing. He commented on the looming crisis of affordable housing both provincially and nationally, stemming from decades of considerable underinvestment.

The province mentioned that these housing units will operate on income-based rents under the aegis of the Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency. NDP legislator Suzy Hansen welcomed the news, but noted that it was just a small step in addressing a long-standing issue that has only grown more severe in tandem with the population’s increase.

The legislature member further stated that the number of units, when apportioned over the five regions, hardly makes a dent in the lengthy waiting list. Lohr also announced that starting work on various trial ventures to establish mixed-income housing on provincial lands. However, detailed data and figures for these projects were not available at the time.

The Minister painted the refurbishment initiatives as potentially echoing the Regent Park urban renewal project in east-end Toronto. He also raised the possibility of selling some current public housing properties that are no longer suitable for low-income residents because of certain factors like remote locations.