A look at a senior's 'ridiculous' fight to get public housing in Nova Scotia

·3 min read
Deena Leblanc, 67, wants out of her current building and in to public housing. She's been trying to get public housing for five years. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)
Deena Leblanc, 67, wants out of her current building and in to public housing. She's been trying to get public housing for five years. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)

Deena Leblanc is one of 2,930 Nova Scotian seniors waiting for public housing.

Leblanc, 67, lives in an apartment building not suited to her needs. She has spinal problems and vertigo. She said the apartment's management is good, but the building isn't right for her.

"It's unfair the way Nova Scotia housing treats seniors," said Leblanc. "Being a senior should be a time to relax."

Leblanc has been trying to get public housing for five years. She's been tangled in bureaucracy and the longer she waits the more her health declines.

A recent report from the provincial auditor general said the province has not effectively managed its public housing units, leaving thousands of people — including seniors — waiting for a home.

Robert Guertin/CBC
Robert Guertin/CBC

Leblanc first applied for public housing back in 2017, along with a roommate, John Snow, her dead husband's brother.

The pair were looking for a two-bedroom unit. They were told none were available through public housing and they should find a suitable apartment and take a rent subsidy for the time being.

Snow and Leblanc moved into the third floor of a Halifax apartment, but Snow died in 2018.

With Leblanc's back condition worsening, the need for her to get into public housing became more pressing.

That's when Leblanc learned she was ineligible for public housing because of her rent subsidy. She was told that due to new rules, she would have to choose between the wait list or having her current rent paid.

"How am I going to be able to live? Because with the prices out there, you can't afford it anymore," she said.

"I'm a senior. I'm on fixed income. You're telling me if I take the subsidy I have to live here forever? So I fought it and I fought it."

It took her many phone calls before a Housing Nova Scotia manager helped her. Because Leblanc applied for public housing before the new rule took effect, they grandfathered her and she kept her subsidy.

"Think of people who don't know that," she said.

At one point, Leblanc said she was told she was in the top 15 of the wait list, but dropped to the top 20 because of emergency cases being a priority.

Robert Guertin/CBC
Robert Guertin/CBC

The more she waits, the more Leblanc's health worsens.

"My doctor said, 'Enough is enough.' He said, 'You need to be close by your family, which is all up in Windsor area, and so that you can have the help that you need.'"

But Housing Nova Scotia won't let her move to the wait list for Windsor. They say she applied in Halifax and if she changes her application location, she'll lose her rent subsidy.

The rules state that to apply for public housing in Windsor, Leblanc will have to live there first.

"Isn't that kind of ridiculous?" she said. "What they're telling me is I have to move twice. So not only that, the pressure and what it's going to do to me by packing up and moving, but the cost it's going to cost me to be able to move."

Housing Nova Scotia declined an interview request from CBC News.

Bill VanGorder is COO of the Canadian Association for Retired Persons' Nova Scotia chapter. He said this is a common issue he hears from members — and is one all levels of government need to fix.

"We need to let the politicians know that this is important to the older segment of society in Nova Scotia and remind those politicians that we're the society that actually votes," he said.

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