Three non-profit housing groups in Halifax approved for Rapid Housing Initiative

Click to play video: 'Halifax one step closer to support housing projects' Halifax one step closer to support housing projects
WATCH: While affordable housing has been a growing issue throughout the HRM for years, the city is one step closer to seeing new housing spaces thanks to a new federal funding initiative. – Nov 24, 2020

Halifax Regional Council voted unanimously in favour of a recommendation by city staff to support three rapid housing projects led by non-profit housing providers.

The funding to support these projects came with a lightning speed turnaround when the Rapid Housing Initiative [RHI] was announced by the federal government less than a month ago.

“The recommendations that are coming forward, to me, they’re all very strong. They deal with women fleeing difficult domestic situations and the other two proposals are … aimed at getting people off the streets and transitioning them into longer-term housing,” Sam Austin said, the councillor for downtown Dartmouth.

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The federal government announced $1 billion will go towards the RHI in October with the goal of creating 3,000 more affordable housing units across Canada.

The Halifax Regional Municipality received $8.7 million of the RHI through the Municipal Funding Stream and city staff had less than a month to put forward recommendations to council.

About 40 non-profit housing groups were contacted by city staff following the federal funding announcement. According to the public report, 16 submissions were initially received but four of those applicants withdrew. In the end, three projects were recommended and selected by council on Tuesday afternoon.

“Some people are going to get housing in our city who don’t have it now and it’s more than 28, it’s 50. It’s not where we need to be but I tell you, it’s going to make a big difference,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage following the virtual decision made by councillors.

READ MORE: Halifax receives $8.7M for rapid housing

The creation of 28 affordable housing units was the minimum standard regional council was required to meet in accepting the $8.7 million.

Adsum for Women and Children is one of three recommended projects.

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Sheri Lecker, executive director of Adsum for Women and Children, says the non-profit already had a plan underway for land in Lakeside which is why she feels they were able to secure a recommendation on such short notice.

“We’ve already been talking about this development for some time — we started about 18 months ago. We purchased this land for $1 from the city almost 20 years ago. We’ve been running transitional housing with supports and programs for much of the last 16, 17 years,” Lecker said.

Adsum for Women and Children were recommended by city staff to receive part of the funding through the RHI. The non-profit housing provider wants to build 25 residential units in Lakeside. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

She says when the RHI was announced, the organization changed its design plan to meet the required criteria.

“It has to be modular, or panelized. Has to be open and occupied at the end of March 2022 — really fast, right. The other thing is we are living through a global pandemic, so, that may have implications for supply line,” Lecker said.

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Adsum’s goal is to build 25 modular units in Lakeside.

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Projects supporting women and Indigenous populations were encouraged.

The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre was also selected, along with the North End Community Health Association.

The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre has proposed the construction of a new shared-housing space in downtown Halifax while the North End Community Health Association’s proposal will see a vacant building on Maitland Street renovated to provide 10 shared-housing rooms for Black Nova Scotians facing chronic homelessness.

The North End Community Health Association wants to covert this vacant building into affordable housing units for African Nova Scotians facing chronic homelessness. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

According to the city staff report, the proposed projects will result in 52 affordable units being created.

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READ MORE: Affordable housing advocates call on HRM to create social housing strategy

Lecker says the initiative is welcomed with open arms but ongoing government investments are required to truly make a dent in the affordable housing shortage.

“Our project, as much as I love it and all the others that are out there, we need to see a whole lot more and that does not fall only on the city but we need to see real investment in the non-profit sector and that has to come from the province,” she said.

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