Halifax homelessness growing as housing projects catch up with demand

According to a recent report, 472 people are currently experiencing homelessness in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Alexa MacLean / Global Halifax

The number of people currently experiencing homelessness in the Halifax Regional Municipality continues to increase amid government initiatives that community organizations say have been desperately needed for decades.

“We’ve got about 150 deeply affordable, if not supported housing units, under development, likely to come online within the year and that is a huge uptick but it’s not even half of what we need,” Kevin Hooper said, the manager of partnerships and community development with United Way Halifax.

In the Halifax Regional Municipality, 472 people are currently experiencing homelessness, according to recent statistics. 

Read more: Halifax council agrees to boost modular housing budget by $1.2M, but with concerns

The Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, launched under the Liberal government in November 2020, has just released an update on the action plan its proposed to address longstanding housing issues.

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Some of those recommendations include doubling the investment into the provincial Affordable Housing Program that aims to create 96 units over the next two years.

The recommendations also include investing $2 million into upgrading provincially-owned housing stock and a $35-million announcement made last October to build more than 700 new affordable units across Nova Scotia.

“Once there was kind of clear demand from the public at a broad scale for government action on this front. I would say a lot of the actions, a lot of the initiatives that have been undertaken are really quite impressive in the context of what we were used to,” Hooper said.

Read more: Nova Scotia’s housing crisis: How the emergency has reached a boiling point

Hooper says public pressure along with the pandemic have led to a tipping point of sorts on the housing front that governments could no longer ignore.

“There was a massive disinvestment in housing in the early ’90s. We stopped building public housing, we stopped subsidizing a lot of organizations and operations, and we are now seeing the outfall of that. A generation has passed and the problems have built, and built, over the past 30 years,” he said.

Along with the Halifax Regional Municipality launching an emergency housing initiative to construct modular trailer units, all three levels of government have supported one another on Rapid Housing Initiative projects.

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The first round of those projects is set to be completed this spring.

“I understand the housing market, things take time to develop those pieces when it comes to building homes but we have people that are living on the street right now that need a roof over their head and we’re not working as quickly as we should,” said Suzy Hansen, the NDP MLA for Halifax Needham.

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Campbell McClintock on role of advocacy during N.S. housing crisis – Dec 3, 2021

Hansen says while she applauds government commitments to housing projects, she feels temporary supports that have been brought in during the pandemic, like the rent cap, should be considered in the long term when it comes to policy changes.

“We think about families trying to figure out their next pay cheque, and whether they can pay their rent, and whether or not they’re going to have a roof over their head, and food for their children,” she said.

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“We have to start thinking about the holistic piece all together when we think about lifting something that we’ve had in place without anything to back that up.”

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