Nova Scotia

Municipalities unsure if they will benefit from Nova Scotia's housing strategy

One mayor says it's been years since his town discussed housing with the province.

Province has announced $35M to create 1,100 affordable housing spaces

A sign welcoming people to Bridgewater, N.S., is seen in this file photo. Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell says there's a 1 per cent vacancy rate in the town. (The Canadian Press)

Municipal officials across Nova Scotia are trying to figure out if the province's new housing initiatives will benefit their communities, but they say all 50 municipalities need more affordable units.

The province announced Wednesday it will spend $35 million on affordable housing to create 1,100 new spaces. 

Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell said despite a vacancy rate of one per cent in his town, there's been no discussion with the province about the scope of the issue.

"Nobody's talking to us. We haven't had a conversation with the province on housing in years," said Mitchell.

"How can you solve a problem if you don't know what the problem is?"

Mitchell said he believes the latest housing announcements are too "Halifax-centric."

He said he's aware of a family of five that could be homeless in two weeks because the place they have been renting has been sold, and yet developers have stopped building affordable housing because they believe the process is too onerous.

Deed transfer tax

Meanwhile, the mayor of Truro said he is worried about the impact of another promise by the Houston government: the creation of a five per cent provincial deed transfer tax for any house purchased by people who have not lived in Nova Scotia for a year. 

Most municipalities already charge a deed transfer fee.

"Combined, that would be a six per cent tax in our area," said Bill Mills. "What will that do? That could force people to rent and put more pressure on our rental market."

In the Municipality of Clare, the deputy warden said he's not sure how the provincial programs will mesh with the local action plan for affordable housing.

The municipality commissioned a housing study earlier this year and is already working on housing projects that involve two former schools and a seniors' home that is being replaced.

"It seems to be aligning somewhat with what the province announced," said Yvon LeBlanc. "I don't know if it's crystal clear yet, but I think it's on the right track."

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