Housing Update #6

This will be my last stand-alone housing update.  I’m going to include a housing update section in my District Update newsletter, which I produce every couple of weeks.  If you wish to continue to receive updates, and I hope you do, please subscribe here: https://wayemason.ca/mailing-list/

What’s Happened Since the Last Update

Last Tuesday Regional Council approved proposed criteria and locations in municipal parks for designated camping for those experiencing homelessness.  This follows the preliminary discussion about approaches to tenting that had taken place the month before.  On Tuesday four areas in total were approved for overnight sheltering, though space will be added as needed, as it is expected Provincial programs to support affordable housing organizations will continue to lag behind demonstrable need. The following locations will become available as designated as camping sites for persons experiencing homelessness:

  • Barrington Street Green Space between Cornwallis St. and North St. 1 in Halifax (4 – 5 sites)
  • Lower Flinn Park in Halifax (1 site)
  • Geary Street Green Space In Dartmouth (1 site); and
  • Green Road Park in Dartmouth (2 sites)

These locations meet specific criteria that is outlined below and will allow 30+ people to sleep rough in the community. This is more than the number of persons currently identified by staff as sleeping rough in municipal parks.  What happens next?  Signage needs to be posted, maps and information material will be prepared, washrooms and potable water where it is not already available, along with training for compliance/enforcement and connections with service providers and navigators. More info here: https://www.halifax.ca/media/78120

I hear 30 spots, 90 spots, and 600 spots?  What are the numbers?

When Regional Council met to discuss approaches to tenting in May there was a degree of confusion around the number of people who were homeless.

During that discussion, Council was talking about approaches for people living rough and camping on municipal property, which was around 30, and the total number of people that are living rough, which we now know is around 90.  There are about 600 people living and experiencing housing precarity, on the by-name list.  Let’s unpack the numbers a bit.

First is the by-name list.  The number of people who are experiencing housing precarity in HRM as of June 14 is 622.  This is the number of people seeking housing who have come forward in the system.  The list is published regularly by the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS) and can be found here https://www.ahans.ca/hrm-homelessness-statistics   

What this list is was explained by Charlene Gagnon from the YWCA:

The thread can be found here: https://twitter.com/charlenegagnon/status/1521707016120676354. It is also important to note people for various reasons may be experiencing housing issues and not be on the list.

Charlene in that thread also talks about the Point-in-Time Count.  The count just took place April 6 and 7 and was released to the public on May 31, 2022. They found that 91 people were “living rough”.  The recorded presentation of Key Findings of the 2022 Point-in-Time Count for HRM is now available on the Downtown Halifax website: https://downtownhalifax.ca/news/2022pitcount…. You can also find the slideshow containing the key findings in the link above.

Finally, HRM has plans to create 30 camping spots (to start) in parks and HRM property.  This is the number of people observed by HRM that are camping on municipal property, and the remainder of the 91 in the point-in-time count is on provincial, federal, or private land.

Modular update & Halifax Community Meeting date set
The public is invited to meet with Out of the Cold staff about the operation of the Halifax modulars.

The meeting will take place at the North Branch library on Gottingen, Thursday July 14 at 6pm. (this information was inadvertently missing from today’s email, and due to mail chimp rules I can’t send out a correction until tomorrow (June 23).

The Dartmouth modulars are open and Halifax, which was completed end of April and handed over to the Province and are slowly being filled. After much back and forth a date has been confirmed to introduce the operators to the neighbourhood and answer questions.

Shawn Parker, the Dartmouth and North End Street Navigator gave an interview about the impact of the modulars.  Among other things he said, “When you can walk and put a key in the door and walk into your own castle, your own kingdom, and then start working on other things that you’d like to address, you know, that’s going on within your life.”  You can watch the interview here: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/halifax-service-provider-weighs-in-on-city-s-homelessness-solutions-1.5890723

HRM has been providing regular updates for the last couple of months, in addition to the monthly information reports that had been provided to the 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

Other Items

  • Public Housing in crisis – the Nova Scotia Auditor General released a report on public housing in the province. Councillor Austin wrote “Report released from Nova Scotia’s Auditor General on public housing. It’s not pretty. The waitlist for housing is over two years. 5,950 waiting for one of 11,202 units. In HRM, count is 2,415 waiting for one of 3770 units. Auditor’s report talks about better using what government has, but is pretty silent on supply. About 25 years ago, government saw a role for itself in building rent-to-income housing. That was a core function. The Province, unfortunately, just stopped doing that. Our population in HRM has grown by over 100,000 in that time period, but we still have the same number of units in Metro Housing as we did two decades ago. A lot of our current crisis comes back to this. The Province needs to put aside ideology, and Build. More. Units!” I will continue to press the Province to invest in public housing renewal – more here https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/auditor-general-public-housing-june-2022-1.6495641
  • NS Housing Trust buys 295 units – The Housing Trust of Nova Scotia is buying five apartment buildings in HRM. Ross Cantwell, president of the non-profit group, said the majority of the 295 units will have affordable rents. HRM granted the Trust $445,500 which will take care of the 1.5 percent deed transfer tax. And once they own the land, the Trust can apply for a rebate of 50 percent from their property taxes which will save about $100,000 a year, if approved.  This model is an important tool to preserving affordability in housing. More here: https://www.saltwire.com/halifax/news/local/non-profit-scoops-up-5-apartment-buildings-in-hrm-for-affordable-housing-100745967
  • Shelter NS – Regional Council approved a one-time grant of $50,000 to Shelter Nova Scotia towards the costs associated with its developing a master plan focused on its development of Metro Turning Point 2.0. This grant will help identify gaps within existing services that will assist persons transitioning from homelessness to stable living/permanent housing, undertake public engagement and education regarding transitionary housing and services/supports that are directed towards those experiencing homelessness and will help to establish design criteria for the future development of Metro Turning Point 2.0 that will complement the heritage significance of the area and can be used to inform future development within the study area.
  • Air B&B – Regional Council expects to hear the detailed proposal to regulate short-term rentals (Air B&Bs) in August  2022.  Council gave staff direction in September 2020 to restrict short-term rentals to primary residences only in residential zones, and to treat short-term rentals as businesses (commercial tax, hotel levy) in mixed-use and commercial zones. This work had been waiting on some provincial policy changes.  You can read that report here: https://cdn.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/200929rc076.pdf