Province announces affordable housing initiatives; relief in sight for some

GUYSBOROUGH – Premier Tim Houston and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing John Lohr announced a series of initiatives to help ease the housing crisis in Nova Scotia on October 20.

The province will spend nearly $ 35 million to support more than 1,100 new affordable housing units in communities across Nova Scotia and immediately provide 425 new rent supplements.

These initiatives are in line with recommendations made in the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission report, Charting a New Course for Affordable Housing in Nova Scotia, released last spring.

Houston said at the Oct. 20 press conference: “The housing crisis is real and Nova Scotians expect us to act… We will do what needs to be done to make sure Nova Scotians can to afford a home. We will not wait.

Don’t Wait also includes an immediate extension of the rent cap, which will limit residential rent increases to 2% per year and will be in effect until December 31, 2023, while more offerings are built.

But building, as anyone who has tried to start a construction project since the pandemic can tell you, is not that easy. Skilled workers are scarce, which is why the government has also added incentives for construction workers, eliminating the provincial portion of personal income tax on the first $ 50,000 of annual income for workers. construction trades workers under the age of 30.

While 1,100 new affordable housing units look good, when you expand it across the province from single-person housing to multi-person housing with widely divergent household incomes, it may be a pebble placed. in the wall of a dam that has reached the breaking point threshold. But this announcement, Houston stressed, is just the start, and the government has to start somewhere.

What is affordable?

It is not yet clear where exactly these new units will be located and how much they will cost. The Journal presented the following scenario in Houston last week: Working full time for minimum wage, a worker would earn $ 2,000 per month. Based on the recommended 30% income for the cost of housing, the rent should be $ 600 – how many of those 1,100 units will fit that profile and will any of them fit a family?

Houston responded, “I can’t stress enough that the way to approach affordability is through availability. We need housing supply across the spectrum, and when we create housing supply across the spectrum, that creates opportunities; and, when we can balance supply and demand, the market rate will also balance. He’s out of balance right now. That is why we are extending the rent ceiling. We understand the affordability problem. We have heard, seen and felt the hardships Nova Scotians have in exactly this situation… With respect to the 1,100 units, the Quick Start program, we will have specific criteria that talk about affordability.

Lohr added that the rent supplements would immediately help solve the problem, but the government did not yet know how many single and multi-bedroom units would be built under the 1,100 umbrella, which is a question of the highest order. importance for people facing a housing shortage. and inadequate housing in Guysborough County and area.

The most recent statistics available from Statistics Canada (2016 Census 2015 release) show that just over 20 percent of households in Guysborough County have a total income of $ 24,999 or less, while the MODG can claim just over 21 percent in the same medium.

The definition of affordable housing, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), refers to a housing unit that can be owned or rented by a household with housing costs (rent or mortgage, utilities, etc. ) are less than 30 percent. of his gross income. Using this measure, the households mentioned above are expected to spend $ 625 per month on shelter costs.

The data compiled by the CMHC indicate that the housing / income ratio is all the more lagged as we get older. In Guysborough County, 59% of people 65 and over spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.

On the ground in Guysborough County

Nancy O’Regan, co-chair of the Guysborough County Housing Network, said of the measures announced by the province last week: “One of the good things the government did was expand rent controls for both. coming years. In this kind of housing market, where everything is going up… it’s kind of a way of holding the line for people whose incomes are not increasing. I think extending this for two years will be really helpful. ”

O’Regan also said she believes the addition to the rent subsidy program should have an impact in the area.

” It’s good news. I think that will be very useful for people in the short term … In the long term, the additional funds they want to invest in building more housing in the province may or may not have an impact on our community.

The Guysborough County Housing Network continues to examine needs in the county and will soon be holding consultation meetings in many communities to ask citizens what citizens think of the needs and challenges, as well as possible solutions.

Over the summer, the network attempted to create an inventory of rental properties in the Guysborough area, but O’Regan said, “It hasn’t gone well. We have created a list. We are still working on creating a complete inventory of all the rental units in the municipality… but people were really reluctant, and they didn’t want to participate. I guess people are really private about this and don’t want their information shared, what they charge or how much they make or the number of units.

“What we are really hearing is that there is no availability. One of the things they say is that they get calls all the time and could rent their spaces multiple times. What we’re hearing, for the record, is that the demand is high and there just aren’t enough rentals, ”O’Regan said.

Factors that are reducing rental housing in Guysborough County include properties that have been converted to short-term Airbnb rentals, the sale of properties during the COVID-19 housing market boom, and the arrival of new people to the area .

“There is a real shift between the real estate market and COVID and new people coming to the area, which has really put pressure on people looking for rental properties,” O’Regan concluded.

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