Nova Scotia

Province announces program to nearly double number of rent supplements

The Nova Scotia government has announced the creation of up to 1,500 new rent supplements to help people who are on wait-lists for public housing pay for units owned by the private or non-profit sectors.

'This is very exciting,' says affordable housing advocate Max Chauvin

Kelly Regan, the minister of Housing Nova Scotia, says the program should reduce wait-lists for affordable housing by 30 per cent over the next three years. (Pam Berman/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government has announced the creation of up to 1,500 new rent supplements to help people who are on wait-lists for public housing pay for units owned by the private or non-profit sectors.

The new program will cost $18 million and will almost double the number of rent supplements across the province from the current 1,700.

Eligible program participants will put 30 per cent of their income toward rent, while the supplement will pay the balance.

"That should reduce our wait-list for [social] housing by 30 per cent over the next three years," said Kelly Regan, the minister of Housing Nova Scotia.

About a third of the new supplements will be available in the Halifax region. That's welcome news for Max Chauvin, the chair of the Housing and Homelessness Partnership, a group that bills itself as "working to end homelessness and housing poverty in Halifax." The group recently released a report on the need for affordable housing in the municipality.

'Home is very important to people's overall health'

"This is very exciting," said Chauvin. "It allows us to use existing [housing] stock to help people find a home and a home is very important to people's overall health."

Three hundred rent supplements will be set aside for community agencies that deal with the homeless.

"There are many who face multiple barriers of mental health, physical health, addiction issues, criminal records that really need this housing support," said Claudia Jahn, the program director for the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia.

Bridging the gap

About 200 hundred of the supplements will be available in Cape Breton, with 25 of those targeted at the homeless community.

A 2016 survey by the Cape Breton Community Housing Association found 304 people were homeless in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

"The new funding will allow us to make a significant impact on our current homeless situation, which is quite serious," said executive director Fred Deveaux.

"It will provide rent supplements ... for people who are currently homeless who need help to bridge that gap between what they get from their income and what the average rents are, and so it will allow them to exit homelessless and get into independent housing."

Rental supplement pilot project in the works

Housing Nova Scotia also plans to set up a pilot project that attaches the rent supplement to the individual looking for a place to live, rather than to specific apartment units.

"So, they'll able to take it with them if they chose to relocate for education, social network or other reasons," explained Dan McDougall, the president and CEO of Housing Nova Scotia.

That pilot project is expected to begin by the end of 2018, but it's not yet clear how many people would be eligible for it.

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