Changes coming to governance of public housing in N.S., but few details yet

·3 min read
Housing Minister John Lohr says the administration of public housing in Nova Scotia will change, but he's not yet sure what the new governance structure will look like. (CBC - image credit)
Housing Minister John Lohr says the administration of public housing in Nova Scotia will change, but he's not yet sure what the new governance structure will look like. (CBC - image credit)

The way public housing is run in Nova Scotia is going to change after Auditor General Kim Adair issued a report this week saying governance and oversight are severely lacking.

But the government hasn't determined what those changes will be.

Housing Minister John Lohr said having five separate authorities with similar operating guidelines but their own directors is a concern, but he won't say whether they are being replaced.

"What I can say is there will be a new entity and that's a very vague word, but it's a deliberately vague word because we haven't landed on exactly what the new entity will look like," he told Information Morning Cape Breton on Thursday.

Governance over public housing has been an issue since the May 2021 report by the Affordable Housing Commission, Lohr said, and the government has been working hard to address that since last fall.

The application process has been standardized and the province is taking other measures to make it more uniform, but there are still five housing authorities and that was part of the problem, he said.

"How public housing was being rolled out across the province was slightly different, just depending on how individuals or how the policies were being implemented, so that's a concern."

Province in 'housing crisis,' says minister

The auditor general said management agreements between the housing authorities and the province are missing or out of date. Lohr said he was unaware of that.

The auditor general also said housing authorities have been taking longer than guidelines suggest to fill empty units, in some cases taking up to four months, despite nearly 6,000 people on a wait-list for units as of Dec. 31, 2021.

Lohr said the province is in a "housing crisis" and government needs to speed up processes so that units are not left empty for long periods.

"Our public housing staff are getting that message, that we want people in these units and we want it to happen quicker," he said.

"We want to be closer to the industry average and the goal is 60-day turnaround."

AG made 20 recommendations

The government is now giving people less time — days instead of weeks — to decide whether to take a unit that becomes available, Lohr said.

The auditor general's report makes 20 recommendations to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing that include:

  • Implementing an effective governance structure and accountability framework with clear goals, performance metrics, roles and responsibilities.

  • Creating a fair and consistent public housing application process and accurate wait-list ranking system.

  • Reporting publicly, at regular intervals, information necessary for applicants to develop realistic expectations for access to public housing based on prioritization, region and size.

The department has agreed to all 20 of the report's recommendations and set target dates ranging from 2022 to 2025 to implement them.

"I appreciate the auditor general's report," Lohr said. "It gives me a roadmap of where to go and what to do and we will follow that."

MORE TOP STORIES

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting