What to expect from Halifax's temporary modular housing units

·3 min read
A sign at Meagher Park in Halifax thanks neighbours for their 'love, care, offerings, interest, compassion, participation, support, solidarity and welcome.' People experiencing homelessness have set up tents and other shelters in the park. (CBC - image credit)
A sign at Meagher Park in Halifax thanks neighbours for their 'love, care, offerings, interest, compassion, participation, support, solidarity and welcome.' People experiencing homelessness have set up tents and other shelters in the park. (CBC - image credit)

The Halifax Regional Municipality is buying 24 modular housing units as part of its strategy to help people living in tents and temporary shelters transition to permanent housing.

The preconfigured units, similar to industrial camps used by workers in Canadian oil fields, will house 73 people and provide shared kitchen and laundry facilities. They're expected to be delivered within the week.

"Everybody has been bending over backwards, both inside the city and outside stakeholders, to make everything move very quickly," said Erica Fleck, the municipality's assistant chief of emergency management who's recently been seconded to work on the housing crisis.

The city is still finalizing where the units will go, but Fleck said there will be one location in Halifax and one in Dartmouth. Things like access to bus routes and other necessary services are being considered in the location negotiations.

Once the units arrive and locations are finalized, the city will work to connect them to utilities like water and power.

The next step before people can safely move in is to contract service providers to run the day-to-day operations, which Fleck said is a provincial responsibility.

73 private bedrooms, bathrooms

The units will mostly be stacked to be two storeys high. The majority of the 24 units will have three or four bedrooms, while some will be used solely as spaces for shared laundry and kitchen facilities.

All 73 bedrooms will include a single bed and mattress, a desk with a drawer, a locking closet, and a private bathroom with a sink, toilet, mirror, and shower.

"[It's] just common decency to be able to have a shower where you can just go in whenever you want or, you know, into the bathroom whenever you want and not have to line up or worry about somebody else just coming in behind you," Fleck said.

"I think everybody deserves that."

Of the 73 units, Fleck said three will be accessible, bathrooms included, to accommodate a wheelchair if needed.

It's unclear what policies will be around alcohol and drug use and whether people can have pets, Fleck said. That will be at the discretion of the service providers who have not yet been named.

Units intended as temporary measure

On Tuesday, the city announced it plans to create 137 affordable housing units using $20 million from the federal government's rapid housing initiative program.

The 24 modular units, which cost the city $240,000, are intended as a temporary measure and are not included in those numbers.

"As long as this is needed, it will remain in place," Fleck said.

"But again, that's up to the province to dictate with their contract with the service providers. But we're happy to say that as long as it's needed that [the city] will be able to provide the space."

A spokesperson for the provincial Department of Community Services said the province is actively working with the municipality on the modular concept and will continue to do so.

"Those experiencing homelessness are among our most vulnerable citizens and they need our compassion and support," Lisa Jarrett said in an email to CBC News.

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