Nova Scotia giving $6.4M to developers for affordable builds

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A new home is built in a housing development in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. The Nova Scotia government said Monday it will spend $6.4M on housing projects in Lantz, Kentville and Halifax, including 178 affordable units. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A new home is built in a housing development in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. The Nova Scotia government said Monday it will spend $6.4M on housing projects in Lantz, Kentville and Halifax, including 178 affordable units. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government will help fund the construction of 178 affordable housing units in parts of the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Annapolis Valley.

The province announced Monday it plans to spend $6.4 million on housing projects in Lantz, Kentville and Halifax. In this case, the government defines "affordable" as rent that's at least 20 per cent below market value.

The breakdown is:

  • $2.5 million to the RFL Group to build a 100-unit development in Kentville with all affordable units.

  • $2 million to the Shaw Group to build an 85-unit development in Lantz with 40 affordable units.

  • $1.9 million to Sidewalk Real Estate Development to build a 100-unit development in downtown Halifax with 38 affordable units.

Ron Lovett, CEO of RFL Group, said the Kentville project is still in the planning stages, but he expects it will be made up mostly of one- and two-bedroom units with rent ranging from $875 to $1,240.

The other two developers could not be reached immediately for additional details.

Brian Wong, minister of advanced education, spoke on behalf of Housing Minister John Lohr about the projects in an interview Monday. He said the first three were chosen because of the developers' readiness.

"We have demand throughout the province for housing and especially for affordable housing. So we really looked at what was available now. We need to get as many [housing units] out as possible, [and] these ones were most ready to go," he said.

Wong said he expects construction to be completed on all three in the next 18 to 24 months.

CBC
CBC

A fourth new development is planned for Cole Harbour, but the province is still looking for a partner to build it. According to a news release from the province, a site on Circassion Drive could fit about 15 affordable units.

The site was selected from an inventory the province is assembling of provincially owned land that could be used for new housing stock.

The province announced another $703,500 for housing projects pitched by the following groups:

  • $138,000 to the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada.

  • $231,000 to the Portal Youth Outreach Association.

  • $90,000 to the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia.

  • $10,500 to the Upper Hammonds Plains Community Land Trust.

  • $150,000 to the Urban Neighborhood Development Association.

  • $84,000 to Shelter Nova Scotia.

Russ Sanche, executive director of the Portal Youth Outreach Association, said $41,000 will be used to kick-start collaborative efforts between several community groups and municipal governments across the Annapolis Valley to build more non-profit housing.

The other $190,000 will go toward ongoing renovations on three houses the association bought in the summer in Kentville, Windsor and Middleton. Those houses are being converted to transitional housing for youth.

Sanche said the houses had a soft launch in October and have already taken in a few residents. Once all the renovations are complete, they'll be able to accommodate 14 youth. He said he expects most residents to stay for one to two years.

"The demand is evident," Sanche said in an interview.

"I could name 14 kids right now that could be there … there's easily 50-plus kids couch-surfing or in unsafe situations across ... all three counties — Kings, Annapolis and West Hants."

'That place could be filled up tomorrow'

Sanche, who learned about the Kentville development Monday morning, said he hopes to connect with the developer to ensure tenants will be able to access any community support they might need to stay housed.

Sanche said he expects those 100 units will be sought after.

"Honestly that place could be filled up tomorrow," he said.

However, he added, rent that's 20 per cent below market value could still be unattainable for some. He said some people served by his organization have housing budgets of $300 to $400.

"We've seen prices rise in the Valley and the wages don't always match. And certainly, if you're on income assistance, it's a big journey from how much you have towards your housing versus what's available," Sanche said.

Shelter upgrades, non-market housing model also receive funding

The money to Shelter Nova Scotia will allow for upgrades to its Barry House and Metro Turning Point shelters, according to the province's news release.

Karen Brodeur, Atlantic regional manager for the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, said her organization will use the money to develop a "community housing land trust model."

Brodeur said the primary aim of such a model is to protect and maintain the affordability of housing. The focus will be on the non-profit and co-operative housing sector. Brodeur said she wants to see that sector grow.

"The private market has certainly done their fair share in developing affordable housing, but the community housing sector develops affordable housing in perpetuity, and the private sector does not necessarily do that," she said.

Brodeur said British Columbia has "significantly" more non-profit and co-operative housing than Nova Scotia. Her group will be looking at B.C.'s land trust model to help shape Nova Scotia's.

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