Gary Burrill and the Nova Scotia NDP have been focused on the housing issue for a long time.
Burrill made rent control a key election issue and spoke out during temporary shelter evictions that turned violent in August.
On Saturday, the party devoted part of its annual general meeting (AGM) to the issue, which has been described as a crisis in Nova Scotia, in particular within the Halifax Regional Municipality.
A panel of advocates included Amanda Mombourquette, co-chair of Strait-Richmond Housing Matters Coalition; Colleen Cameron, chair of the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society; Victoria Levack, a member of Permanent, Accessible, Dignified, and Safer (P.A.D.S.) Community Network; Kate Macdonald, a co-founder of GameChangers902 and branch manager at Halifax North Memorial Public Library; and Hannah Wood, chair of the Halifax-Peninsula chapter of ACORN.
The housing crisis isn’t just in urban areas, says Antigonish-based advocate Colleen Cameron.
“We just are in the process of getting ready to open 12 new units,” she says. “We’ve had 70 applications for those 12 units and I’m getting calls weekly. People are desperate.”
Cameron says housing is “one of the most significant determinants of health.”
Mombourquette says access to services is also more challenging in rural areas, with travel often required.
“Housing challenges look a lot different here,” Richmond County’s warden says. “It’s often hidden homelessness and it shows up in things like couch surfing, especially with young people and people experiencing mental health and addictions.”
Advocates like Macdonald know solutions are also needed for addictions and mental health, and new voices have to be at the table.
“Yeah, it is about housing, but it’s also about everything else too,” Macdonald says. “It’s about all the oppression in other systems as well because it’s interconnected. And this is a crisis. This is an actual crisis. That means now. Every minute is crucial.
“So how would you want to be treated if you lost your home? What would you expect? And what fight would you feel like you deserve?”
Earlier this month, the Halifax Regional Municipality approved $3.2 million towards modular units.
Twenty-four people would be housed at a site on Alderney Drive in Dartmouth.
A location in Halifax hasn’t been chosen yet.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservative government recently detailed some strategies to manage the housing crisis as well.
A provincial affordable housing announcement is scheduled for Monday in Lantz, N.S.