Nova Scotia not in a housing crisis says province
Housing Nova Scotia says waitlist runs from about 4,300 households to about 4,500 in a given year
The head of affordable housing for the Province says there is no housing crisis, despite the waitlist for affordable units running into the thousands.
"The waitlist tends to run from about 4,300 households to about 4,500 in a given year," says Neil MacDonald, the director of housing services for Housing Nova Scotia, which is part of the Department of Community Services.
"It's generally pretty stable, the number of people looking for (affordable) housing through our housing authorities," he says. "We wouldn't call that a crisis, necessarily."
That assessment is at odds with views expressed by some affordable housing advocates.
Bernadette MacDonald is the executive director of the Tri-County Women's Centre and a member of the group Choices, a coalition of community agencies, government representatives and municipal officials in the Yarmouth-area.
She says the housing situation has gotten worse for people on low-incomes over the past few years, especially in rural Nova Scotia.
The Town of Yarmouth recently condemned several properties for being unsafe, causing the eviction of several low-income households who are on social assistance.
Those families don't know where they're going to live next.
"We have a very high population of people who are living on fixed or very low incomes," Bernadette MacDonald said. "There's a high unemployment rate. There's old housing stock."
"It's very difficult for the private sector to maintain a property and make money. So, I think the provincial government needs to work with the not-for-profit sector a lot closer and help them to develop and build that housing."
Neil MacDonald says the provincial housing strategy adopted in 2013 means the province is working with municipalities, private partners and not for-profits to increase the amount of affordable housing.
He says the province has re-purposed several former school properties to be used for affordable housing, including a project in Barrington Passage and another in Amherst.
Neil MacDonald says the province will look at doing more of that type of property conversion, but that those efforts depend on whether buildings have structural issues, or if the community wants to use the space for something other than affordable housing.