‘Sad state of affairs’: Housing non-profit has to turn away new clients in Halifax and Dartmouth

Click to play video: 'Halifax non-profit forced to turn away people in desperate need of housing' Halifax non-profit forced to turn away people in desperate need of housing
"We're in a serious housing crisis”: Dartmouth housing workers unable to take on more clients due to a widespread lack of affordable housing throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality. – Feb 25, 2020

Affordable housing in Dartmouth and Halifax has hit an all-time low, say those working on the front lines of non-profit housing support services.

Diana Devlin, executive director of Welcome Housing & Support Services, says affordable units are practically “non-existent”. Devlin added that properties that used to be affordable are also being moderately renovated by developers who then increase the rent significantly, to the point that it’s pushing people out of their homes.

“We have so many phone calls coming in and so many people wanting our services, needing us to help them find affordable housing, that we had to cap our case load, which is really unfortunate.”

READ MORE: Dartmouth hotel terminates reservations with social assistance guests

Devlin says her caseworkers have been stretched beyond their limits. The ideal caseload is about 40 individuals per support staff, but Devlin says that number has hit about 100 people each.

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In an effort to inform the greater community about the housing crisis Devlin says the region is facing, the non-profit took to social media telling people they’re no longer able to accept new clients.

“When we don’t actually have units that we can put people in, we have to be concerned about the quality of services that we are providing to the few people that we can actually help,” Devlin said.

Halifax has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country, at one per cent. That rate is lower than rental vacancies in Vancouver and Toronto, according to the Rental Market Report Data, published by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation.

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Devlin says not only are new affordable units not being built, “renoviction” rates caused by developers are skyrocketing.

“[Developers have] done some degree of renovations to the properties and then increased the rent to such a degree that they’re no longer affordable for our clients,” she said.

READ MORE: Halifax’s rental vacancy is now below Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver: study

Meanwhile, Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc says her office has been inundated with requests from people desperate to find a place to live, from single mothers to low-income earners just trying to find a sense of stability in their lives by finding a roof to put over their heads.

For Leblanc, one solution remains obvious.

“I want to see rent control, so that people who are in housing now will not get forced out with exorbitant rental raises.”

Devlin says Housing Nova Scotia has a three-year action plan that mainly includes using federal funding from the National Housing Strategy to repair deferred maintenance on existing housing stock.

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She says rental and housing subsidies for low-income individuals don’t help them find housing when the units aren’t available.

Leblanc says the province announced investments in affordable housing subsidies during the budget but not a concrete plan to build new affordable units.

The official investment from the province is an $18.7 million increase for “the second year of initiatives to provide safe, suitable and affordable housing under the Nova Scotia Action Plan for Affordable Housing.”

The funding will also include the construction of 39 new affordable housing units.

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