Non-profits have 'a lot of hope' after N.S. government puts more money into affordable housing
Province announced $19.5 million for non-profit housing and modular units this week
More funding from the Nova Scotia government will allow non-profits to repair and create more affordable housing and ensure it will stay affordable in the long-term, say public housing advocates.
On Tuesday, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced $19.5-million in new funding to "preserve, modernize and improve" existing affordable housing, plan new affordable housing projects and create new modular units.
For non-profit organizations that work in housing, this funding is a step in the right direction.
"I think it proves that they are not only listening to us, but they want to support our work," said Lisa Ryan, executive director of the South Shore Open Doors Association.
"That gives me a lot of hope moving into 2023 that there are going to be good things coming for Nova Scotians, no matter who they are and no matter what their income is."
Ryan's organization serves people in Lunenburg and Queen's Counties, in the South Shore area of the province. She said as of the end of November, the area had about 115 families experiencing homelessness, including 93 children.
Many of the South Shore Open Doors Association's clients are single mothers or seniors living on a fixed income. Ryan said they have housed 55 families in the last six months, but there is more work to be done.
"It's going to take time," Ryan said. "It's unfortunately not going to be quick enough for those who are already in the throes of homelessness, but I do believe there is good on the horizon that is coming."
Where the money is going
The province says the new funding brings its total commitment to affordable housing programs to more than $29.9-million this year.
The province is allocating $12.5-million of the funding to the Community Housing Infrastructure and Repair Program, which helps co-operative housing groups and non-profit housing providers fix up units.
Another $2.5-million will go to the Community Housing Growth Fund to support non-profits and co-ops to design and plan affordable housing developments.
The same amount will be invested in the Rental Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, which helps landlords upgrade existing affordable units while maintaining lower rents for tenants.
The last $2-million will go to new modular units, though a location has not yet been determined.
Ryan said her organization is hoping to acquire affordable housing and is applying for government funds.
"We are hopeful that we'll be able to apply and obtain some of that funding just to continue to do the work that we are doing right now.... But also to make sure that the work that we're doing is successful because without housing it is very difficult to provide homelessness prevention and homelessness intervention services."
Ryan said more funding is needed, but it's not just money that will fix the issue.
"There needs to be policies put in place around housing and there needs to be a lot more support services and there needs to be support for developers and rental providers," she said. "It takes collaboration, it takes listening to one another."
The Housing Trust of Nova Scotia has been allocated $7.5-million in forgivable loans to help renovate units in five buildings it purchased from the private sector in Halifax last summer to create affordable housing.
The non-profit organization has been working to renovate 150 of the 295 units. But the organization's executive director Angela Bishop said interest rates, supply chain issues, and worker shortages have been slowing down the repairs.
"[This funding] means we can move faster, we can do more to provide both affordability and quality housing for residents of lower and moderate incomes," Bishop said.
"Often the affordability we think about, they're coming with units that need a lot of repairs ... I think it's an important recognition by the province that the quality of housing is every bit as important as the affordability."
Bishop said the renovation budget is now close to $18 million and is expected to be finished within three years, with no tenants being evicted during the process.
The Housing Trust won't need to pay back the province's loan as long as the units stay at the same level of affordability for 20 years. Bishop says the Housing Trust plans to keep the buildings affordable for at least 50 years.
Rents now vary from $750 to $1,450 per month, depending on household income.
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