Nova Scotia

Last-minute help saves Halifax woman from homelessness

After sharing her story with CBC News, Joedie Muise received the help she needed to find a new apartment. She was facing a rent increase of $150, which she couldn't afford, and was struggling to find something in Halifax's tight rental market.

After CBC News aired Joedie Muise's story, she heard from dozens of people who offered help

Joedie Muise stands in front of her apartment on Windsor Street, which she's moving out of on Saturday. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Joedie Muise shed a few tears this week.

When CBC News first shared her story Monday, she was five days away from losing her apartment and was expecting to end up homeless. Her voice cracked and her eyes welled up when she described her fear and worry.

But by Friday, her circumstances had changed. She had a new apartment lined up, a mover scheduled, and a feeling of relief.

When a property manager from Killam Apartment REIT called her mid-week offering an apartment, she said she cried tears of joy. "[I] thought maybe I could finally sleep for the first time in a few months."

How she got here

Muise's landlord notified her of a rent increase of $150 in March and Muise, who is on income assistance, knew she wouldn't be able to afford it. She brings in $1,000 a month and the new rent, which takes effect Aug. 1, will be $1,049.

She searched for a new apartment, unsuccessfully, for months. She was facing a rental market with one per cent vacancy and a system of government and non-profit housing support that is struggling to provide help to all those who need it. More than 400 people are known to be homeless right now in Nova Scotia, and more than 5,000 people, including Muise, are on the waitlist for public housing.

After CBC shared her story, she heard from dozens of people who offered to help, including a few offers of new apartments. Two fell through, but all she needed was one to stick. By Friday afternoon, she had her signed lease in hand.

Housing minister weighs in

Chuck Porter, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, said that while he couldn't comment on the specifics of Muise's situation, he was pleased to hear she had found a new place.

"We would like the rents to be what people consider fair and affordable, mostly because we have a number of people looking," Porter said in an interview Friday.

But when it comes to rent control, Porter was lukewarm.

"We're not in the business of telling businesses how much they can charge for something," he said.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Chuck Porter said he couldn't speak specifically about Muise's circumstances, but was pleased to hear she'd found a new place. (Robert Short/CBC)

Porter said there's "plenty of data" that shows rent control doesn't work, although he couldn't provide specific information.

"It's not my department or my specialty," he said, deferring to his cabinet colleague Patricia Arab, whose portfolio includes the Residential Tenancies Act. Porter said her department has done jurisdictional scans of rent control and concluded it doesn't work.

Porter said his department would rather work directly with landlords to keep rents affordable.

New infrastructure

Porter said his department is "heavily involved" in discussions right now about how to shrink the waitlist for public housing, which has grown almost 30 per cent in the past two years. The solution, he said, could include building more infrastructure, but not necessarily public housing infrastructure.

Porter said he was interested in partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors to build and manage more affordable housing, and the use of inclusionary zoning policies at the municipal level to put affordable housing quotas on new developments.

What's next for Muise

Muise said her new $820 apartment will cost her $500 per month. The rest will be covered by a rent subsidy that the provincial housing authority offered to her this week. She said she heard from the housing authority a few hours after her story was published.

She also heard from dozens of people this week who wanted to help her financially, and she's received enough to cover her first month's rent and damage deposit, with some left over to go into savings.

Muise said she was shocked by the outpouring of support she received after going public with her story. (Craig Paisely/CBC)

Muise signed the lease for her new apartment sight unseen, but had high hopes for the space. She was excited to have a balcony after living in a basement apartment with no outdoor space for the past 16 years.

She has a mover booked for Saturday who's willing to work for a $200 moving allowance provided by social assistance.

She said she'd be happy to stay in her new apartment for the rest of her life.

"I'm not a person who likes to move. I just want somewhere where I can just stay and stay and stay."

About the Author

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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