The housing plan released by Nova Scotia’s progressive conservative government is receiving high marks from some advocates who hope to see it lead to solutions to the province’s housing crisis.
Under new legislation introduced Wednesday, the province’s two percent rent cap will be extended through December 2023 to protect tenants after the state of emergency ends.
The announcement also included investments in affordable housing units and the creation of a planning working group to focus on faster planning and development approvals for large residential projects at HRM.
NS will maintain control of rents until December 2023 under new legislation
Kevin Hooper, community development and partnerships manager for United Way Halifax, said the announcement was “impressive in its understanding of the issues” from a holistic perspective.
“To get the results we want, we need a systemic response, and this is one piece of the puzzle that will get us there,” he said.
Hooper said that while the legislation is not a silver bullet, it is a good start in solving the long-standing problem of housing affordability in the province.
“It is not just the homeless who are suffering,” he said.
“It is society, the province as a whole. There are costs associated with people’s homelessness … we all need to take responsibility for this and we need to take it seriously and treat it like the crisis that it is. “
Not everyone is a fan of legislation. In a statement, Kevin Russell, CEO of the Nova Scotia Investment Property Owners Association, said his association was not consulted beforehand.
“Continuing to ignore the private sector and not meaningfully consult on solutions with the private sector will make it difficult to build the new housing stock that Premier Houston is talking about,” he said.
Russell pointed to the rising price of insurance and said the rent cap will make it harder for people to invest in property.
“Make no mistake, anti-small business measures like the ones the Houston government announced today will force many smaller owners to sell and leave the industry,” Russell said in the statement.
Nova Scotia residents continue to call on the province to extend the rent limit
Hooper, meanwhile, said he won’t take a position on the long-term impacts of rent control, and said many of the affordability issues Nova Scotians struggle with are also felt by landlords.
“I empathize with that, but I feel like we are in a crisis situation and we need to find some measure in the immediate term to stop the bleeding, so to speak,” he said.
“And if a temporary rent control measure is what we can do to make an impact, or at least stop that bleeding, then I think we need to do it.”
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Hooper also said income assistance and wages should be increased overall to help Nova Scotians meet their daily needs.
“Costs are increasing across the board and revenues are not. And until we rebalance that equation, where people can afford to pay for at least basic necessities, then we are going to keep fighting, ”he said.
“You cannot allow a large proportion of the working adult population to spend 40 to 50 hours a week in a job that does not pay their bills.”
A ‘bright light’
Part of the housing plan also includes investing $ 10.1 million over two years to provide comprehensive support, shelter, and culturally relevant housing for people struggling with homelessness.
Of that, $ 931,000 will go to support individuals leaving correctional facilities. This includes funding for the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society of mainland Nova Scotia.
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Emma Halpern, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, said she was “shocked” and excited by the announcement.
He said it is the first time he has seen an ad like this acknowledging the intersection of criminalization and homelessness.
“Really look at an ad where they say, ‘We will work on the specific needs of people who have been incarcerated and make sure there are services to help people who have been incarcerated or who are incarcerated when they reintegrate,’ is phenomenal.” Halpern said.
“Now we are going to have funds to be able to provide the intensive case management that is needed to adequately support people who have a cross-cutting set of needs, from homelessness to criminalization to mental health challenges.”
Jess MacDonald, addiction counselor and community support worker for the Elizabeth Fry Society, said her work to ensure clients get what they need has been “challenging, mentally and physically.”
During a typical day, you perform outreach services, including moving people to and from locations, providing them with what they need, such as cell phones and minutes, and answering questions.
But it’s a lot of work, he said.
“They are really alone most of the day. I can only be in so many places … Until recently there hadn’t been much support for anyone, especially those who are homeless, “he said, adding that the new funding is” wonderful. “
“Some of them have been experiencing this their entire lives, and this is the first bright light for them.”
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