Housing Update #4

What’s Happened Since The Last Update

Modular Unit Update – Preparatory work continues at the Dartmouth site to build structural cribbing (foundation) for the modular units. Service trenches for water, sewer, and power are being dug. Four modular units are expected to arrive in the coming days and will be stored, and based on the current rate of progress, installation of the modular units is expected to be completed by Dec. 20.

Halifax modulars are purchased and should be installed by end of January, hopefully, sooner.

Safe emergency temporary shelters – Temporary shelters are being built by the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth – and placed on church property. Some folks seem to want to present this as a fight between the Archdiocese and HRM or are saying these shelters are the same as the sheds I’ve previously said are not to code and are not safe.

On November 8, at his request, I meet with Archbishop Dunn and his staffer and we discussed code and permit requirements and what could be done to meet shelter needs while meeting code requirements.  I met with building and fire staff on November 15 and reported their advice to the Archbishop.

On November 18 the diocese brought in an engineer who was conversant in code to work on a design, and a meeting took place between HRM staff and the engineer.  On November 22 this meeting took place and a plan was created for consideration of the Archbishop and Diocese staff.  On November 24 the Archbishop met with the Mayor and myself and some senior HRM staff let us know that he had approved the project and was looking for assurances on speedy permitting and inspections, which were given.

These shelters will have power, light, heat, and insulation.  I am really happy with the outcome and look forward to supporting the Roman Catholic diocese in this project, and have shared this info with other faith communities in District 7 for their consideration.  More info here: https://halifaxyarmouth.org/shelters

What is Building Code and how does it work?  Construction of a habitable structure requires a permit and would need to be inspected by building inspectors during and upon completion of construction. https://www.halifax.ca/home-property/building-development-permits

Inspecting these structures and ensuring compliance is done by Building Inspectors.

Under the Building Code Act (NS), Building Inspectors are appointed by municipalities. As statutory appointees, their work is governed by the Act, by-laws of the municipality that are consistent with the Act, and the National Building Code (NBC) adopted by the Province (based on Federal guidance, which is not binding).

Municipalities in Nova Scotia do not have the authority to override or supplement NBC.  Appeals of Building Inspector decisions are made to a Provincial committee, not to Regional Council. Council cannot direct statutory officials in their work. More here https://nslegislature.ca/sites/default/files/legc/statutes/buildcod.htm

NBC allows habitable bedrooms where washrooms and food preparation/kitchens/sinks with running water are provided external to the bedroom. Effectively, what the Church is proposing is to establish the equivalent of a “single room occupancy/boarding house” with each of the bedrooms as stand-alone structures rather than in a single building.

I was not in the room when the church representatives met with building officials as politicians do not have a role in the application of the Building Act.  HRM staff did a great job working with the applicant to find a real, buildable solution.

HRM has been providing updates weekly for the last three weeks, in addition to the monthly information reports that had been provided to Council as a part of our public agenda.  You can find these updates here:   https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/helping-address-homelessness/recent-ongoing-efforts

My Take – It has become clear that some folks in Meagher Park are not interested in Grey Rink.  The addition of the rooms in the North Dartmouth rapid housing project and the modulars on the Halifax side should create enough supply to peaceful and voluntary transfer of Meagher Park dwellers to safe and legal housing.  This should take place in January.

I am still advocating for a couple of small-scale camping sites (5 tent limit) for those that for a variety of complex reasons do not want to stay in any of these options.

It is frustrating that the modular are taking longer than was hoped, but it is totally understandable, given this is the first time HRM has tried to do something like this. Since HRM owns no affordable housing, and has no staff to operate affordable housing, it has been a huge learning curve, but the first ones should be open in December.

Other Items

  • Council voted to start public participation (engagement and consultation) about creating an interim density bonus program for the suburban and rural parts of HRM, which would create more funding to help support not-for-profit affordable housing projects. Read the report here: 15.1.6 Public Participation Program – Interim Incentive or Bonus Zoning Program [PDF]
  • HRM voted to update the Affordable Housing Plan, including an update the housing needs assessment every five years in line with the Census data, revise and expand our Affordable Housing Strategy in support of provincial and not-for-profit housing construction, explore creating a municipal housing organization, and support the province in their housing efforts per the Minister of Housing mandate letter.  This is good, but the Council voted against my motion to have a dialog to take back housing from the Province conditional on an adequate funding model.  This means HRM is not looking to reconsider the 1996 Service Swap and subsequent provincial acts and regulations continue to operate, and the Province remains responsible for operating and building affordable housing, shelter, supportive housing, and social work.  Read more here:  Options for Increased Municipal Support and Partnerships for Provincial Housing Program Delivery [PDF]
  • Seniors Care Grant – Beginning Wednesday, December 1, 2021, Service Nova Scotia & Internal Services will deliver a new grant program on behalf of the Department of Seniors and Long-term Care. The Seniors Care Grant will be an annual reimbursement program of up to $500 to help cover the costs of household services. It can be used to reimburse costs for such things as snow removal, home repairs, lawn care, grocery delivery, and more. It is available to homeowners and renters. The applicant must meet the following criteria to be eligible for the program:- They must still reside in their home
    – The property or lease agreement must be in their name or include their name
    – They are 65 years of age or over
    – They have an annual household net income of $37,500 or lessApplicants can submit online at www.novascotia.ca/seniorscaregrant or by paper. Paper applications will be available at MLA offices as well as Access Nova Scotia Offices starting on December 1st.

    Applicants have until May 31, 2022, to apply for the grant.  For more information please visit www.novascotia.ca/seniorscaregrant or call 1.800.670.4357.

Next Steps
  • These updates should occur every 4-6 weeks for the next while.
  • The first modular should open by December 20, the second in January
  • North Dartmouth single room occupancy should open in January.