The tenants of three buildings in Truro, N.S., were nervous when they heard their homes were for sale but they can now breathe a sigh of relief.
With help from the province, the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council bought the homes from a private owner in order to keep the 15 units affordable.
The tenants will be able to maintain their current rents, most of which range from $600 to $900.
"We've made a commitment to the tenants that we won't even consider raising the rents for at least two years," Dianne Kelderman, the council's president and CEO, said in an interview.
"And in one case of a young mother with two young children, she's paying $1,650 for her place, which is very high, so we're actually going to be reducing her rent."
Sandra Finney is a pensioner who has been living in one of the buildings for more than a decade. Her rent is currently $469 per month, and she said it's "excellent" that it will stay that way for now.
"The cost of living now is wicked, very wicked," Finney said. "And when they said, 'Well, [rent] won't go up for two years,' I said, 'Wow, that's a good feeling,' because they're not raising our [pension] cheques any."
The province gave the council a $1.7-million low-interest mortgage through the Community Housing Acquisition Program to purchase the buildings.
The Department of Community Services will also provide more than $78,000 annually for operations and support services, Kelderman said. Most of those funds will go toward paying for a housing support worker to help the tenants connect to other agencies in the community, for example, or to make sure the tenants are "in a healthy place both personally, and being able to stay in the building," she said.
Some of the tenants are low-income but the demographics are mixed, Kelderman said.
"It's young people, it's young women and children ... it's persons with disabilities. We have I think four immigrant families living there," she said. "I would say the majority of them, or at least 70 per cent of them, are working."
Other ventures across the province
Kelderman said the council decided to get into the affordable housing sector two years ago during an annual business planning session with its board.
"We decided that it was time for us to step up and be a part of the solution for affordable housing," she said.
Since then, the organization has acquired 86 affordable housing units across the province, in New Glasgow, Pictou and Truro.
They plan to expand further, with a new 20-unit project in Pictou expected to break ground this summer.
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