Affordable housing set to welcome families at risk of homelessness to 25 Halifax-area apartments

·3 min read
The Sunflower is a small residential community made up of four, two-storey buildings and one common building in Lakeside, N.S. (Sheri Lecker/Adsum for Women and Children - image credit)
The Sunflower is a small residential community made up of four, two-storey buildings and one common building in Lakeside, N.S. (Sheri Lecker/Adsum for Women and Children - image credit)

A new 25-unit affordable housing development is nearing completion just outside of Halifax.

The Sunflower, a small residential community made up of four, two-storey buildings and one common building, is being built by Adsum for Women and Children in Lakeside, N.S.

The non-profit organization aims to reduce homelessness among children, women and gender-diverse people with safe and affordable housing.

According to a report released in May, the homeless population in the Halifax Regional Municipality has more than doubled in four years. A one-day count in April showed 586 individuals were without a safe, permanent address, up from 220 in 2018.

This housing development was announced in February 2021, after the organization received $4 million in funding through the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative.

CBC
CBC

Sheri Lecker, the executive director of Adsum, said the development's 25 units include one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, and four units are fully accessible.

"I've been visiting the site two, three, four times a week for the past year and a lot of folks working on them we're like, 'These are great, can I live here?' " Lecker told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Wednesday.

"They're really nice and spacious. They're bright. They have great windows."

Lecker said the community space will house an office, resource room, accessible washrooms and a kitchen so the organization can offer programs, community meals and private events.

She said landscaping around the buildings was completed this week with the hope that tenants can start moving in within a month.

"Eventually there will be flowers and trees, and it will be completed and look much less like a construction zone, but a place where people can have beauty inside their home and outside," she said.

Permanent housing

Lecker said the apartments will serve as permanent housing and residents will sign a lease.

"We have other permanent housing and some of our tenants have been living there for five, 10, even 20 and 25 years," she said.

"There's no expectation that people can [only] live there for short-term and then have to give it up and give the opportunity to someone else."

She said rather than applications, residents were selected from a comprehensive list of people experiencing homelessness in Halifax who are also seeking housing.

The list was compiled by Adsum and other organizations, including the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre, the YWCA and Welcome Housing & Support Services.

"Instead of offering housing on a first-come, first-serve basis, by using this approach, we're really prioritizing people and families based on their level of need and using a standard process," she said.

Sheri Lecker/Adsum for Women and Children
Sheri Lecker/Adsum for Women and Children

She said determining who would get housing was a difficult process.

"We felt accountable to the community to really look at who is experiencing homelessness, what groups of people might be over represented, who might have additional or extra barriers to getting housing [and] who might face additional racism or discrimination or whatever the barriers might be," she said.

Lecker said rental prices will vary as they're geared to each household. Rent will be no more than 30 per cent of a household's pre-tax income, which she says is about $300 in most cases.

Sheri Lecker/Adsum for Women and Children
Sheri Lecker/Adsum for Women and Children

Lecker said she understands the urgency to open quickly amid the ongoing housing crisis.

"So while The Sunflower is cause for celebration ... it's also come at a time when we're facing a real emergency that has been ballooning and has been allowed to balloon," she said.

"We need thousands more units like this across the province and we hope that our experience can not only inform us as we go forward, but maybe we can inform others who are hoping or wanting to be involved in these kinds of construction work."

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