Habitat for Humanity pushes for more affordable housing options in the HRM

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WATCH: With rental rates continuing to increase and the vacancy rate in Halifax remaining extremely low, a local non-profit is coming up with their own solutions. Graeme Benjamin explains – Nov 6, 2020

A local not-for-profit says it is in a position to build dozens of affordable housing units by the spring, but they’re going to need financial help from the government to do so.

Kevin Riles, board chair for Habitat for Humanity, says they can provide 80 affordable units by the spring, if they’re given the right funding.

“We’re open for business. We’ve got the land, we’ve got the approvals, and we’ve been doing affordable housing for 30 years,” said Riles.

Read more: Affordable housing advocate says Nova Scotia premier’s comments on rent control ‘bizarre’

There are currently a cluster of townhouses along Drysdale Road, off Herring Cove Road in Spryfield, which provide affordable housing options for low-income residents.

It’s all part of Habitat for Humanity’s project called Habitat Way, which consists of townhouses and apartments in the area. The project allows tenants to pay what they can afford, based on income.

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Riles says the project provides residents with true-to-self affordable housing.

“JL Ilsley’s new high school is right here, William Spry Centre, great public transit, 10 minutes from the city, so this is a great place for affordable housing with all the amenities,” said Riles.

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N.S. premier’s comments on rent control leave sour taste for housing advocates – Oct 30, 2020

Riles says the development agreement is in place and they have the five acres of land to build on. They just need the funding.

Last month, the federal government made up to $8.7 million available for low-income housing projects in the Halifax area as part of its rapid housing initiative.

Riles would like Habitat Way to be one of those projects.

“Their goal is to have 28 affordable housing dwelling units in place and occupied by March 31 of 2022. We can deliver that 28 for that $8.7 million,” said Riles.

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“We’re also looking at other areas, whether it’s Sackville, Dartmouth — this just happens to be the largest, but we want to have affordable housing in all of HRM and Nova Scotia,” he said.

Read more: Nova Scotia says it’s looking at options to prevent evictions, but short on specifics

According to a 2019 fall survey from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Halifax’s rental rate is currently at a new low of one per cent. Premier Stephen McNeil has acknowledged the province has an issue with affordable housing, but has been non-committal on a solution.

There are growing calls for rent control from members of the community, but Premier McNeil has said he doesn’t feel that will fix the issue.

Nova Scotia ACORN, an independent tenant advocacy group, is holding a rally for rent control outside of Halifax City Hall on Saturday at 2 p.m.