N.S. hires real estate agency for study on affordable housing

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Nova Scotia’s government says it will study the extent of the need for affordable housing in the province.

With a contract worth $406,310, real estate agency Turner Drake & Partners Ltd., based in Halifax, will “study housing needs” across Nova Scotia.

“The company will assess current and future housing needs in urban and rural areas, help identify the number of households that currently lack safe, affordable housing for various reasons, and propose solutions,” read a Friday release.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr said in the release the province needs to increase housing supply to meet the demand.

Though housing advocates have been calling for a permanent rent cap and to reinstate the ban on renovictions, Premier Tim Houston and his Progressive Conservative government have placed focus on housing supply.

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“We also need reliable, up-to-date information about where and what the needs are so the Province and municipalities can make smart policy decisions,” said Lohr.

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“This study will give us that data and takes action on the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission recommendation to improve the information available on the rental housing market in Nova Scotia.”

The province’s 2021-22 budget included $35 million to create 1,100 new affordable units across the province, as well as 425 rent supplements.

As part of this budget, the province announced at the end of March that a Halifax real estate developer is getting nearly $22 million from the government to help create 373 new affordable housing units.

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Lohr said the funding for Clayton Developments would make the units available as part of an 875-unit development in Dartmouth.

17,000 units short

At the end of March, the housing minister gave a special designation to nine areas in the Halifax region with the aim of accelerating the development of as many as 22,600 new residential units.

Lohr told reporters the move is essential because of the severe housing shortage in greater Halifax, adding it could shave months and even years off the approval time for the developments in some instances.

At the time, the province said it’s estimated the Halifax region is short at least 17,000 housing units — a figure Lohr said is growing.

Earlier this week, the Nova Scotia government also announced a $203,500 grant to an affordable housing project by Habitat for Humanity. The organization pitched a development to “make homeownership a reality for 70 families” in Spryfield, N.S.

The province’s 2022-23 budget contains an additional $15 million with funding for 550 new rent supplements, the province said.

According to Friday’s release, Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. will also study the need for student housing in Nova Scotia communities with at least one university or college campus.

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“Good decisions are a result of the collection and use of good data,” said Amanda McDougall, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, in the release.

“We are pleased the Province is moving forward with the crucial data collection that is needed to plan for sustainable and affordable housing in our communities.”

A final report of results of that study is expected in one year.

In addition, the province hired Akoma Holdings to asses the housing needs of African Nova Scotian communities, it said.

Earlier this year, Akoma Holdings already received funding from the federal and provincial governments to provide affordable housing to African Nova Scotians from the Preston area.

“For too long, Black Nova Scotians have faced housing issues due to systemic racism,” said Veronica Marsman, a property manager at Akoma Holdings, in the release.

“From fractured land titles to basic infrastructure, our community has been overlooked and bypassed in the housing market and now crisis… AKOMA is proud to be part of this initiative to break down these barriers and build up Black families.”

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— With files from The Canadian Press and Alex Cooke.

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