Studies into housing needs across Nova Scotia need to address unique problems in different areas and the effects the housing crisis has on African Nova Scotians, proponents say.
The provincial government announced last week it was going to assess each of its 49 municipalities. Another study at the same time will analyze issues in African Nova Scotian communities.
The work will try to determine current and future housing needs in rural and urban areas, while identifying the number of Nova Scotians lacking affordable housing. It will also propose solutions.
"There's a lot that's going to go into this," said Neil Lovitt, a community planner at Turner Drake & Partners, which is the lead consultant for the general study.
The study will also examine student housing in communities with a post-secondary school or campus.
Researchers will rely on statistics from the 2021 census. Any gaps in the data will be filled with consultation, Lovitt said.
Bringing together all the information gathered by researchers will be a major part of the project, Lovitt said.
"We're taking a lot of different data points from disparate sources and pulling them into a single location, and then also talking about the 'so what?'"
Different communities, different needs
The president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities said it's important to understand what the problems are in different parts of the province.
"There's a combination of needs that need to be looked at and the data needs to be sought before you start making investments in development," Amanda McDougall said.
McDougall, who is also the mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said there will be different demands in different parts of Nova Scotia.
For instance, she said Cape Breton Regional Municipality needs more middle-income rental options in addition to an increase in affordable housing.
"What's happening in HRM is definitely not going to be the same as what's happening in, say, Yarmouth or Guysborough," McDougall said. "Because of this vast geography and varied nature of the needs, I really welcome the data that will come from this."
A final report on the housing needs in every Nova Scotia community is expected to take a year.
African Nova Scotian strategy
The province hired another company, Akoma Holdings, to lead the study that will look at housing needs specifically in African Nova Scotian communities.
It will examine environmental racism and systemic barriers to finding housing. The results will be used to develop a housing strategy for African Nova Scotian communities.
"Normally when there is an issue within Nova Scotia or in any community, it's racialized communities who are more affected," said Vanessa Fells, director of operations for the Nova Scotia Decade for People of African Descent Coalition.
"The answer that we don't know is how much more affected are they? For African Nova Scotians, our assumption is that they are going to be even more impacted by affordable housing or the lack of affordable housing than others."
Fells said the coalition is a partner in the study and was asked to participate with a few other African Nova Scotian organizations.
Fells said research about African Nova Scotians and affordable housing has never been done and there's only anecdotal evidence of their experiences being denied mortgages or rejected by certain rental agencies.
"It's going to be very important to hear first-hand voices. To hear about those experiences. It's the only way that proper change can happen."
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