Housing Network prepares for next steps: affordable housing, supports top priorities

·3 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – The Guysborough County Housing Network held a planning workshop at the Guysborough Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on Sept. 16. Nancy O’Regan, co-chair of the network, spoke to The Journal on that afternoon about what was discussed and next steps for the organization.

Approximately 25 people attended the meeting, representing many Guysborough County service providers such as Roof Over Your Head, Kids First, Circles of Support and Change, the African Nova Scotia Black Development Association, Housing Nova Scotia, Home Care and Home Support, the Guysborough Business Development Partnership, as well as staff and councillors from the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. O’Regan said discussions focused on what the network learned during their community consultations this past year, “And, no surprises there, the issues are the lack of affordable housing and housing stock in general.”

Tied to the lack of housing are issues around public housing needs, racism, discrimination, access to land, the need for a housing provider and ways to support rental tenants.

“There are a lot of issues. It’s very complex and [there’s] not an easy solution. One strategy is not going to fix this problem. It’s multi-layered,” said O’Regan.

Despite that complexity, O’Regan said the group did come away with three overarching strategies.

“One is around employment-related housing,” she said. “There were some ideas around getting housing for those in the healthcare field, continuing care; all those places where we are trying to bring people into our community – newcomers, immigrant populations – that want to move in and work here, who can’t find anywhere to live.”

Another area of focus is affordable housing.

“There’s all kinds of great ideas such as pocket housing, tiny homes and ideas looking at what family needs are,” said O’Regan, noting that seniors and female-led single-parent families had the most difficulty finding affordable housing.

“The third big area is around supports for people who need affordable housing,” which includes addressing issues of food security, emergency services, homelessness, mental health and addictions, said O’Regan.

Several steps have already been taken to address some of these areas of concern.

“The Antigonish Guysborough Black Housing Association has already formed. They are a non-profit group, and they are working towards becoming housing providers, which is one of the best things that has come out of this project. With our consultation in the Black communities, we learned a lot and they started working on it right away,” O’Regan said.

The past year of meetings and research have clarified and documented the impact of the housing crisis in rural areas like Guysborough County.

“The impacts of not having housing; it’s things like mental wellness and stress. It’s about people being able to move here to work. For people who live here, it’s about family members being able to come back here. And it’s ultimately about the survival of the community,” said O’Regan.

She said last week’s meeting was, “The last step of a year-long research project for the Guysborough County Housing Network. We’ll be pulling that data together and we’ll be going out and presenting that again to the municipalities and we’ll begin to start to work on some of the strategies that we’re putting forward … we have developers that are interested in this work, we’ve got community organizations that want to see things happen and the municipality [MODG] is certainly positive about what role it might be able to play in providing land should we get ourselves organized enough to get a community housing project. I feel like we’ve got all the pieces that we need.”

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal