Nova Scotia

Lunenburg woman renovating school bus to make it her new home

Fed up with the high cost of rental housing, a Lunenburg, N.S., woman is renovating a former school bus to make it her permanent home.

Dayle Crouse has been staying at a campground this summer because she couldn't find an affordable rental

Dayle Crouse hopes the school bus will be fully renovated by next summer. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Fed up with the high cost of rental housing, a Lunenburg, N.S., woman is renovating a former school bus to make it her permanent home.

Dayle Crouse moved out of her most recent rental in May because she was looking for something smaller, and less expensive. When she couldn't find a new place in her price range, she decided to spend the summer living in a tent at a campground with her two kids.

When not at her job at a coffee roaster in Lunenburg, Crouse has been working on fixing up the bus, which has included gutting the interior. The next step will be insulating the floors, ceiling and walls to make the bus winter-friendly.

Crouse told CBC Radio's Mainstreet she knows many people with well-paying, full-time jobs who are struggling to find affordable housing in the province.

"I see so many people on Facebook and they're like, 'Get a job, stop mooching,' ... and that's not the problem," she said.

"I just want them to know this is affecting their neighbours, their children, their spouses, people with mental health issues, and housing is health."

Crouse has been gutting the interior of the former South Shore Regional School Board bus, which has included ripping up the floors. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Reasonable housing costs were once a selling point for living in Nova Scotia, but prices have spiked in recent years amid a housing stock that hasn't kept up with population growth.

Advocates and tenants have been sounding alarm bells over the state of the housing market, including during the recent provincial election

The issue captured more public attention in mid-August when Halifax police pepper sprayed and arrested protesters in the city's downtown as officials cleared dozens of tents and temporary shelters from encampments in local parks and green spaces.

Crouse said all levels of government need to think about creative solutions to the affordable housing shortage.

What the town is doing

Lunenburg Mayor Matt Risser said the demand for housing in Lunenburg exceeds the supply.

"I think it's obviously incredibly unfortunate that people are having to do these types of things to find adequate and affordable housing," he said.

Risser said housing is a provincial responsibility, but the town is doing what it can to help out.

"It's a complex and complicated problem and there's no panacea," he said. "The main way that we as a municipality can address this is through planning and zoning and land use, and that's what we're doing."

Risser said the town recently redid its municipal planning strategy, land-use bylaws and ancillary regulations. He said these measures will allow for an increased supply of housing in Lunenburg, everything from high-density, mid-rise units to accessory dwellings in established neighbourhoods.

Province considering extending rent control

Nova Scotia's housing minister, John Lohr, said last week his government is considering extending rent control beyond the current state of emergency.

"We're looking at what possible solutions there are, I am looking at that," Lohr told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday in Halifax.

Dayle Crouse bought an old school bus earlier this summer and plans to be living in it with her son sometime next year.

"I'm very concerned about what I think are egregious increases in rent and we're looking at all of our options."

Lohr said he continues to meet with stakeholders and will consider all potential avenues to help.

Crouse bought the bus at an auction and began renovating it last month. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Crouse said she's spent the past two years researching how to renovate "schoolies." She likes the idea of living off-grid and taking up a smaller footprint, but she's not sure she would have taken the leap and bought a school bus if rental prices were more reasonable. 

"It is hard to make the leap when you have a safety net. I had no safety net," she said. 

Regulations around living in a bus full-time vary depending on where you live in the province, and Crouse admits she has more research to do about the rules in Lunenburg. 

She's planning to spend the winter in a cottage and continue renovating the bus. She hopes it will be ready by next summer.

"If this fails, well, so what?" said Crouse. "Because I have nothing else anyway so let's just do it, with wild abandon."

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With files from CBC Radio's Mainstreet and Emma Smith

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