Nova Scotia

Inverness County looking for ways to deal with housing shortage

Opportunities abound in Inverness County these days but those who want to take advantage of them are often hampered by the lack of places to live. Housing lots, family homes, even decent rental properties are hard to find. A new housing strategy has some solutions.

Draft housing strategy coming Friday addresses what consultant Conrad Taves says is a 'rural revolution'

A century home in Mabou, Cape Breton. (Conrad Taves)

Despite gains from a pair of new golf courses and a thriving biomedical company, a councillor in Inverness County believes housing options aren't keeping pace with the municipality's growth.

In fact, Coun. Jim Mustard said a lack of housing and land is holding the county back.

"It's not the price point," said Mustard, who represents District 3 (South West Margaree). "The availability is the No.1 issue."

Whether it's someone moving to the area for a job, seniors trying to leave large farmhouses, or young people looking for a family home, Mustard said, many have decided not to live in Inverness County because they can't find the right place.

Rising rent for low-income earners

Mustard said people with low incomes are also affected.

"I've had people come to me that are in public housing and as their income goes up, so does their rent ... they are now paying between $800 and $1,000 a month." 

Hillcrest public housing in the town of Inverness. (Conrad Taves)

Mustard said that money could be used to buy a house — if they could find one — instead of paying for public housing.

Consultant looking at ways to revitalize 

Conrad Taves, a design and planning consultant, has been tasked with finding a solution.

He said many rural Nova Scotia communities are facing the same challenges.

"We're all looking at ways to revitalize and re-imagine how these populations can thrive in the future," said Taves.

"But I've been seeing a kind of a rural revolution and part of that strategy to revitalize housing is kind of a cornerstone." 

Council to review strategy

Taves has given council a draft housing strategy that includes several suggestions.

They include developing policies to discourage unoccupied housing, support to upgrade older homes, encourage more year-round rental housing options and more housing options for seniors.

Mustard said council will meet Friday to review the strategy.

He wants council to act quickly and said the first step is to hire someone who can begin implementing parts of the strategy as a pilot project.