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Family priced out of rental market on N.S. south shore forced to live in tents

Click to play video: 'Family forced to live in tents on Nova Scotia’s south shore'
Family forced to live in tents on Nova Scotia’s south shore
A family of seven have been forced to live in a campground in Lunenburg as they’ve been unable to find a new home. The mother of five says despite having a full-time job, she’s been unable to find accommodations after their previous short-term rental expired. Alexa MacLean has the details – Jun 30, 2022

A campground in Lunenburg, N.S., is the only makeshift home Jessica Smith and her family could find after months of searching.

“We had a short-term rental from October until June 1. So, from October 2021 until now, we’ve been looking for a rental,” Smith said.

Smith is a lifelong South Shore resident and says even with a full-time job as a continuing care assistant, she’s priced out of the rental market.

“Rent has gone up drastically. If anything is available, it’s short-term or there’s a lot of Airbnbs happening right now, or there’s just not places big enough, suitable, for a large family,” she said.

Smith decided to publicly share the struggle her family is facing because she knows there are many others in similar positions.

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“The government and everybody needs to be aware of what’s actually happening. They need to try to get something in place for families that don’t have a home and don’t qualify to buy a home. They need to hear us,” she said.

Jessica Smith says she’s sharing her story to highlight the housing problem. Alexa MacLean/Global News

The community is rallying behind the family with support and widespread efforts to find them suitable housing.

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“A stranger … reached out to me and she has gathered up a lot of people that are donating stays at Airbnbs, she’s promoting small businesses as well. So, every day she’s trying to get a small business to donate something, and then they’re going to auction it off,” she said.

Smith says the kindness of strangers along with the strong bond her family shares are helping them get through this challenging time.

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Jessica Smith’s family of five and their two dogs have been living at a campground. Alexa MacLean/Global News

The Town of Lunenburg mayor, Matt Risser, says the housing crisis is a widespread issue that’s impacting municipalities across the province.

“I would say the need is acute. I would say there’s a lot more demand than we’ve got supply, right now. I think the province is doing housing needs assessments for all the municipalities this year, and I think ours will reflect the demand that’s here,” Risser said.

He describes the need for housing as “demonstrable” and says Lunenburg town council has implemented bylaw and land-use changes to try and encourage the construction of more stock.

“We’ve allowed for more density in terms of where people are able to build. We’ve allowed more as-of-right development, which means that people just need a permit so they’re not hung up by public hearings,” he said.

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Lunenburg Mayor Matt Risser says the housing crisis is affecting municipalities across the province. Alexa MacLean

Risser says that while he agrees short-term rentals have placed pressure on existing housing stock, he’s cautious about placing blame on any one factor.

“We have to be careful not to scapegoat any one particular factor. The biggest aspect of it is that the demand is in excess of the supply,” he said.

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