CBRM eligible for nearly $5M in rapid housing funding
Muncipality looking for non-profit developers to get started on projects this spring
Cape Breton Regional Municipality is moving quickly after getting word that it is eligible for about $5 million in rapid housing funding from the federal government.
The municipality got word of the federal money just before Christmas and is looking for non-profit developers to get started this spring.
Living accommodations are a top priority in CBRM, said Mayor Amanda McDougall.
"There is a need for market-based housing, affordable housing, supportive housing — you name it, we need it, so any type of increase to stock is going to be required," she said.
New funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is intended to create housing that costs tenants no more than 30 per cent of their income, or the equivalent of the shelter allowance under provincial income assistance.
It is aimed especially at those who are homeless — or at risk of homelessness — and women, urban Indigenous people and Black Canadians.
CBRM has issued a request for expressions of interest from non-profit developers, because they are best able to create housing that is affordable for the long term, McDougall said.
"When you're working with non-profit organizations, there are grants — there's operating grants from the province, for example — that will help you maintain that deep affordability," she said.
It is hoped the $5 million in funding will provide up to 20-24 new housing units, the mayor said.
Projects must be open to tenants within 18 months
"People might say, 'How in the heck is that possible?' But it's because of the way that you leverage money at different levels of government to invest in these projects," McDougall said.
It's also called rapid housing because projects have to open to tenants within 18 months.
CBRM's call for expressions of interest closes on Jan. 26 and projects have to be submitted to CMHC by March 15.
Projects can be either new construction or renovations, as long as they are ready within 18 months.
During a December council meeting, some CBRM councillors expressed skepticism about the timeline, saying there could be a lack of workers due to the scope of government and private construction projects on the go right now.
The provincial government is building a new community college campus in downtown Sydney and is building or renovating all the hospitals in CBRM.
Co-ordination at all levels needed, mayor says
That's on top of private construction and renovation work being done, but McDougall said she doesn't expect it to be a problem.
She planned to meet with the Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council on Wednesday.
"It's going to take co-ordination at all levels and I think we're very well situated to do so," the mayor said.
Jack Wall, president of the Cape Breton Island Building Construction Trades Council, said contractors he has spoken to say they have enough workers to take on additional jobs, if rapid housing projects arise.
"They say they can handle that for an 18-month period, no problem at all," he said.
Wall said some councillors misunderstood the situation.
It may look like work has slowed down at the regional hospital or at the community college. But the type of trades needed changes over time, so once outside work is done, interior trades take over.
But some trades have to wait for one to finish before the next one can begin.
Additionally, in some cases, there have been delays in getting materials that has slowed the work a bit, he said.
However, there are tradespeople who are still travelling out west who could come back home if there was work, and there are others here who are just waiting for their particular skill to be needed.
Wall said it is understandable if some people think the island's tradespeople are working at maximum capacity.
"They're not used to seeing this much construction work in Cape Breton," he said.