Stephen McNeil says housing is Nova Scotia's biggest issue

The premier says he wants to find a way to help first-time home buyers who can't get a down payment together, but whose monthly expenses are equal to what it would cost to manage a house.

Premier says he wants to find ways to help first-time homebuyers

Premier Stephen McNeil says housing is the single biggest issue that needs to be addressed in Nova Scotia. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

As a boy, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil's family was thrown into crisis when his father died suddenly, leaving his mother to try to figure out how to take care of 17 children on her own.

Looking back on that time, the premier says the fact his parents owned their Annapolis Valley home was a saving grace. It's one of the reasons he believes the single biggest issue that needs to be addressed in the province is housing.

"My mother could at least keep us in that home and then figure out, 'How do I do the next steps to make sure I keep these kids together?'" he said in a recent interview.

"If you don't have [a house], which lots don't, what would she have done? Where would she have found an apartment to keep us, or a house that she would have been able to afford to keep us?"

Looking for ways to help more people

The premier said his government is looking for ways to make investments in affordable housing in both rural and urban parts of the province to make sure people have safe places to live.

The Liberals brought in rent supplements to try to address the growing unaffordability of many apartments in the Halifax area.

And while there are avenues to work with the private sector in urban parts of the province to include some affordable housing in new buildings, there may need to be a different approach in rural parts of the province, such as the government owning buildings, said McNeil.

The premier also wants to find a way to help first-time homebuyers who can't get a down payment together, but whose monthly expenses are equal to what it would cost to manage a house.