Nova Scotia

Advocates say Liberal housing strategy a good first step, but lacks details

The Liberal's new $40 billion national housing strategy is a long time coming for some affordable housing advocates in Nova Scotia, but they'll have to wait even longer to find out exactly what it means for Nova Scotia.

Trudeau government has promised to upgrade 300,000 affordable units across the country

Mulgrave Park resident Elaine Williams says money is needed to repair the public housing complex in Halifax's north end. (Emma Smith/CBC)

The Liberal's new $40 billion national housing strategy is a long time coming for some affordable housing advocates in Nova Scotia, but they'll have to wait even longer to find out exactly what it means for the province.

On Wednesday, the federal government outlined its ambitious strategy, which includes repairing 300,000 affordable housing units and creating another 100,000 units in the next decade.

MP Andy Fillmore, who shared the plans on Saturday at Halifax's Mulgrave Park, said he anticipates about $1 billion will flow to Nova Scotia in the coming years.

Mould and rats in apartments

Elaine Williams raised her four sons in a public housing complex in Halifax's north end. In her more than four decades of living in Mulgrave Park, she's seen the apartments and surrounding areas deteriorate.

"They need to follow through on what they're saying because people need to see things happening, and that's when people know, 'OK, they care about us,'" she said.

The Liberal government announced 'bold goals' in its $40-billion national housing strategy, says MP Andy Fillmore. (Emma Smith/CBC)

She said it's often up to the tenants association, of which she is a member, to fundraise for needed improvements.

"They stopped painting our walls, they stopped repairing our railings. Our cement was repaired and it just deteriorated over the years. So we're hoping that it can get back to the way it was," said Williams.

Crystal John, executive director of the Mulgrave Park Caring and Learning Centre, said the most pressing issues are the rats and mould.

"There's some stuff that's going on inside the housing complexes ... that are really affecting children with asthma. Those kinds of things are really important," she said.

Rural housing challenges

The Trudeau government has "bold goals," said Fillmore, including working with other levels of government to invest a total of $8.6 billion in repairing existing affordable housing and building new units.

It has also promised to spend $2.2 billion to reduce "chronic homelessness" by 50 per cent in the next 10 years. 

Developer Noel Taiani says the government needs to do a better job of communicating with people who are already building affordable housing. (Emma Smith/CBC)

While Fillmore specifically mentioned funding for public housing in Halifax such as Mulgrave Park and Uniacke Square, he said money will be divvied up across the province "so no one is getting left behind, and as we know, sometimes it's the rural areas that have the most acute housing needs, where poverty levels can be elevated."

Noel Taiani, a landlord and developer who has built affordable housing complexes in Truro and Halifax, hopes the government takes the time to hear from people who are already doing the work. 

"Where I find a fundamental issue is that these programs are very broad," he said, "and it's at the local level where they have to be refined, kind of like a surgical instrument dealing with the particular unit, the particular individuals."

'This is our community'

For Williams, who has spent many years advocating on behalf of her community, it's about more than money. 

"It's very important that people know that the people in Mulgrave Park, we love our homes. We don't want to move. This is our community," she said.

And while she's optimistic the government's promises will mean concrete plans soon, she said her job isn't done.

"Now that they've announced it, I will definitely be working harder on making sure it happens," she said.