Monthly rent for units to be discounted to 60% of median income
The Nova Scotia government is releasing $6 million to fund nearly 200 affordable rental units in what was hailed as “an important step forward” by a local advocacy group.
Between 183 and 184 units will be built in 19 Nova Scotia communities in the next three years, said Kelly Beal, the province’s minister of social development and poverty reduction.
In February, Nova Scotia signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nation’s sustainable development goals that calls for the creation of 25,000 quality affordable rental housing units. The money for the units will come from the province’s housing trust fund.
At the moment, Nova Scotia is home to just one-tenth of the province’s population and 24% of its children live in poverty.
Beal said the intent is to bring down the average rent for the new units to 60% of the median income.
“We know that low-income and families are more likely to live in subsidized housing,” Beal said in a telephone interview. “Many of them, in fact, have insufficient income for stable, affordable housing.”
Last year, Nova Scotia had the highest concentration of people living in subsidized housing. The number of families living in subsidized accommodation was 439,000. Of these, the number of subsidized units was 1,329.
The number of people living in subsidized housing is increasing, said Beal. It has increased over the past 30 years at a rate of 1.1% a year. The increase is better than the rate seen by other parts of Canada, but Beal is concerned.
Nova Scotia has built 1,900 affordable housing units, Beal said. “We have to build more.”
The units being funded will be primarily attached to existing multi-unit projects, so tenants will be able to stay in their apartments.
Nova Scotia was among 10 Canadian provinces that committed to creating a 15,000-unit housing stock by 2030, Beal said.
The first group of targeted units will be announced in the fall and will be completed over the next two years. The remaining units will be built over three years.
Krista Ferguson-Davies, spokeswoman for the Building Federation of Nova Scotia, said they welcomed the initiative.
Ferguson-Davies said the Home First initiative is important for the province, which has some of the highest rents in the country.
The organization also views the initiative as an effort to address the long-term problems, such as unemployment and mental health, that lead to some Nova Scotians being forced to live in substandard housing, she said.
“How do we deal with our issues that are creating poverty for families?” Ferguson-Davies said. “And how do we tackle it in a more sustainable, long-term way?”
The service providers that administer the funding will track the performance of the program by working directly with the communities.
“We have a total of 190 communities that will be dealing with this,” said Ferguson-Davies. “So it’s going to be a work in progress.”
Beal said those eligible would have to be household earners. “Anyone working for a non-profit or government-funded provider of housing would be eligible,” she said.
Last year, the Halifax Regional Municipality announced $2.5m in new funding aimed at increasing the number of subsidized units in the city.
The municipality has also identified 11 pilot projects where the municipality will be committing some of the funds to building new subsidized housing.