NS Votes 2021 – Housing & Homelessness Questionnaire Responses
In Nova Scotia, the housing crisis continues to challenge renters, families, low-income earners, marginalized communities and more. On August 17th, Nova Scotians will go to the polls and we wanted to know the housing solutions and strategies that each party is proposing.
More than 70 organizations and housing advocates, including United Way Halifax, sent a letter to the provincial party leaders (Green Party, Liberal Party, New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative Party) and posed a dozen questions to find out where they stand on issues related to homelessness and the right to housing. Here is what we heard back by the deadline:
1. Definitions: How do you define affordable housing?
Liberal Party: Housing is a basic human right. It is the foundation for our daily lives, it is a key factor in our personal and economic success, as well as a social determinant to our health. According to CMHC housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income but we know that this definition leaves single-parents families, seniors, women, persons with disabilities and other groups behind. Affordable housing is an extremely complex issue where not one solution or group can fix it. We know housing prices are reaching record highs as home purchase rates grow, and that low vacancy rates are putting upward pressure on the rental market. We must work together with our partners and community stakeholders to find innovative solutions.
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party understands that in today’s economy, the threshold for families to meet housing that would be defined as “affordable” is becoming harder and harder to meet. Food prices are going up, gas is going up, and rent is going up – wages are not. Even without the rapid increase in rental prices Nova Scotia has witnessed, it would be harder to pay for rent in today’s economy due to less income being available with the continuous increase in cost of living. We are committed to making life more affordable for Nova Scotians through several of our policies and commitments, such as the Better Paycheck Guarantee, the More Opportunity for Skilled Trades (MOST) program to allow trades workers under the age of 30 to pay no provincial income tax, and our Universal Mental Health program to ensure people get the care they need when and how they need it, and return to the workforce when they are ready. Our MOST program will allow the extra funds saved from the provincial income tax to be put toward rent, paying off debt, or saving for a down payment to buy their first home. The Better Paycheck Guarantee will return 50% of the corporate tax a corporation pays on the condition that 100% of that return is given to the bottom 80% of employees – not the top 20%. This will ensure that Nova Scotia’s working class families get the financial break they deserve, and have more income available to pay for the necessities.
New Democratic Party: The NDP defines affordable housing as housing where the cost consumes less than 30% of a person’s income.
Green Party: LocalHousingSolutions.org defines affordable housing as housing that a household can pay for, while still having money left over for other necessities like food, clothing, transportation, and health care. That means that what’s considered “affordable” depends on a household’s income. It generally costs 30% or less of a household’s income.
2. Accessibility: What is your understanding of accessible housing and its availability throughout the province?
New Democratic Party: The NDP believes there is not enough housing which is accessible to people with specialized mobility needs. This is the case throughout the province, not just in the HRM. To address this gap in the availability of accessible housing, an NDP government is committed to accelerating the construction of Small Options Homes for people living with disabilities, and to growing the availability of affordable and accessible housing, generally. The NDP also understands that accessibility goes beyond only physical barriers. There are great needs in Nova Scotia that are not being met for housing that is affordable , supportive, culturally appropriate, and located close to work, school, family, and other amenities, as well as physically accessible. All of these elements must be included in an approach to housing access.
Liberal Party: We know that we need to engage more at the community and local level to determine the needs of accessible housing. We know that a large proportion of our population are living with varying levels of disabilities. Finding a home that is both affordable and accessible can be difficult. That’s why we need to continue to do more to support accessible housing stock available on the market.
Progressive Conservative Party: Rent control has been proven time and time again that it benefits just a select few, while increasing prices overall and decreasing the quality of rentals across the board for everyone else. Our solution is to cut the red tape surrounding the construction of new rentals to allow new units to be constructed much quicker than the current timeframe allows. It can often take years to build a new apartment building, while our population growth is far outpacing our construction of new units.
Green Party: The Green Party of Nova Scotia knows there is a dire need for affordable and accessible housing and that availability is particularly low in Sydney, Halifax, and Truro, where we plan to implement Housing First strategies. We know that people with disabilities want and need many more independent living options beyond long-term care homes or institutions.
3. Rent Control: Do you support rent control and if so, please give details or explain what you would put in place to offer stability to tenants?
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party does not support rent control. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a study on rent control that shows it benefits society, encourages the construction and upkeep of new and existing apartments, or helps keep prices low. In fact, the opposite for all of those things is true. Investors will likely not build apartments in areas where their revenues are controlled – they will build literally anywhere else where they can recoup their investment. This will cause a further squeeze on our housing stock, and a decrease in housing quality, as landlords will not invest in their properties. If a landlord does invest as a means of renovating the unit, once the renovations are done, prices will skyrocket higher than before to recoup the revenue lost during the unit’s time under rent control. Our housing crisis will not be fixed with rent control. With rent control, prices will remain stable (until renovations occur), but the vacancy rate will continue to fall as new units will not be constructed quick enough to meet our growing demand. An unintentional consequence of rent control will be that the condition of apartments will continuously deteriorate. Landlords will not invest their money into renovating apartments as they will never get that money back. Rent control will give landlords two choices with maintaining their housing stock:
1.Landlords can invest their money into renovating or maintaining their properties, and will not be able to recoup those funds. This means that landlords who renovate will go thousands of dollars into debt and will not have the opportunity to recoup their investment. Landlords will not do option #1.
2.Landlords will not invest their money into renovating or upkeep their properties, and the quality of the apartment will continuously deteriorate. The deterioration of housing units is what Nova Scotia will see with rent control. Under a PC government, stability to tenants would be offered through a stable housing supply that offers an abundance of choices. When vacancy rates are as low as they currently are, the lack of competition results in higher prices, because at the end of the day, someone will sign the lease. If competition exists in the marketplace, the market will return to a buyers market where landlords do not have the power to raise prices to unsustainable levels.
New Democratic Party: The NDP believes strongly that housing is a human right and is the only party in this election proposing to make rent control permanent. Our NDP caucus has introduced rent control legislation multiple times – it can be viewed at https://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/63rd_3rd/1st_read/b044.htm . We would also ensure the regulation of short-term rentals to stop the creation of “ghost hotels” and prevent the loss of long-term residential units to the short-term rental market. We also know that the Residential Tenancies Act needs to be updated to reflect the real dynamics of the landlord-tenant relationship. An NDP government will review the Act to look for ways to better protect tenants and will strengthen tenants’ rights including allowing tenants to file group complaints, requiring landlords to post rental rates in a building, and creating a registry of health and safety violations in rental properties.
Liberal Party: The Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission raised concerns around rent control and said that we need to consider all the potential effects. For example, rent control could divert investment away from rental units to more condominiums, where there would be no restrictions on the sale price of the units. The commission was also concerned that rather than invest in building maintenance or energy efficiency conversions and that buildings may fall into a state of disrepair. Halifax Regional Municipality has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates of all major cities in Canada, pegged at around 2.1%. No amount of rent control can increase that vacancy rate and we believe that it would likely have a negative effect, lowering the vacancy rate and stifling future purpose-built rental developments in our province. The Affordable Housing Commission also said we should look at ways to minimize the impact of renovations and evictions, that is why we have committed to requiring landlords to compensate tenants that are involuntarily displaced from their units for renovations. We will amend the Residential Tenancies Act to require one month of compensation for the tenant for each year they lived in the unit up to a maximum of 6 months rent.
Green Party: We support rent control as an emergency measure to prevent people from losing their housing and plan to consider the pertinence of rent control on a long-term basis in a way that ensures maintenance remains high-quality and unsafe slum conditions do not develop. We would work with CMHC, municipalities, housing organizations, Mi’kmaq communities, and the private sector to ensure that a full range of strategies can be utilized to address the issue.
4. Affordability: What will you introduce to ensure that housing remains affordable? For example, will you introduce a provincial rent support program or/and raise income assistance rates? If so, how soon into a mandate would you do this?
Liberal Party: The Liberal government introduced the largest single additional investment in income assistance in the province’s history at $35.2 million, increasing the standard household rate by $100 a month per adult in the 2021-2022 budget. We also currently have more than 3,100 families receiving rent supplements of over $300 a month.
Progressive Conservative Party: Housing is neither affordable nor accessible at this moment. The shortage of housing is making it difficult for people to find places to live. Upon forming a government, all options will be considered as we meet with stakeholders to develop the best path forward.
New Democratic Party: An NDP government is committed to ensuring access to affordable housing as well as to ending poverty. This means targeted measures to protect the right to housing, as well as investment in universal services that makes life more affordable for people, generally. An NDP government will implement permanent rent control to stabilize and make predictable people’s monthly rent. An NDP government will raise income assistance rates, bringing people out of deep poverty, while also instituting a $15 minimum wage, free before- and after-school care, a school food program, and $10 a day child care. An NDP government understands the great need to grow the non-market housing sector to ensure that there are options for all renters and a housing landscape that is conducive to true affordability and accessibility. This is why an NDP government would immediately invest in 1,000 new affordable units across the province, prioritizing the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals or groups living in precarious housing conditions. This must include seniors, people with disabilities, people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and communities made vulnerable by structural racism and discrimination. Access to safe, affordable housing is essential, yet we are in a housing crisis which is, in turn, fueling a homelessness crisis. An NDP government would establish a Right to Housing Act, which would create a roadmap to eliminate homelessness, address systemic barriers to housing, and require the government to create a housing strategy, including regular reporting on progress. The NDP would also provide full commitment to a Housing First Approach that would rapidly move people into stable, long-term housing with supports.
Green Party: We would ensure that a provincial housing program is coordinated with other key policy areas such as a guaranteed liveable income, employment, recreation and leisure, transportation, health care and the environment. It’s important to note that Guaranteed Liveable Income would augment and not replace such programs and services as housing, pharma, dental and health care, child care, education and retraining, as well as other vital specialized services such as those to support people with disabilities or developmental challenges. These programs help promote access to and affordability of certain resources and services that income support alone may not and that few Canadians can afford on their own. We would begin to take action immediately, while a plan that will bring this sector of our economy to a green level is elaborate.
5. New Units: What role will the province have in building, acquiring and operating new affordable housing units in urban and rural Nova Scotia? What is the timeline for this work?
New Democratic Party: An NDP government would recommit the provincial government to leadership in providing housing. From 2014 to 2019, the Liberals built less than 200 new units of affordable housing in the province. The NDP built almost as many in just two years, from 2011 to 2013. We would resume this bold approach, building 1,000 new units of affordable housing in four years by reinvesting in publicly-owned, cooperative, and non-profit housing. We would also support a permanent Housing Trust where provincial, municipal, and private resources would go to a pool of money that non-profit housing providers can access quickly in order to acquire and provide affordable housing. Furthermore, we would enable municipalities to implement inclusionary zoning, allowing them to become more effective partners in the fight for housing
Liberal Party: A re-elected Rankin government will establish a Provincial Loan program for non-profit housing organizations and societies. This program will enable our housing non-profits to purchase buildings that are at-risk of being sold or converted to market-rate units. This type of program has been advocated for by housing non-profits for many years and will enable them to acquire the properties and continue to run them as affordable rental units, convert some to social housing or a combination of the two. Creating affordable housing is a group effort. We need to work together with communities, our municipal and federal partners to develop more projects for sustainable, long-term affordable housing.
• together, the federal and provincial governments are investing $513 million over 10 years in affordable housing projects and programs
• In 2020-21, more than 1,800 low-income homeowners received assistance to make a home repair or adaptation
• more than 3,100 households currently receive a rent supplement
• the Canada-Nova Scotia Targeted Housing Benefit will help up to 1,700 households across the province
Progressive Conservative Party: Before housing can be built, the necessary land must be secured. Approximately 30% of land in Nova Scotia is owned by the government. The exact amount that could be used for housing is unknown, as the Liberal government has no full inventory of provincial owned lands. The PC Party believes that once this is analyzed, there will be land that could be better used – for agricultural purposes, for recreational purposes and for housing purposes. As such, the first direction the PC government will give to Nova Scotia Lands is to work with Housing Nova Scotia to develop a full inventory of lands owned and identify areas that could be used for housing. The inventory must be submitted to the Minister within three months of coming into government so that the province can manage and keep track of the land it owns in a comprehensive accounting manner. This will also allow work to get underway immediately in determining best uses of those lands
Green Party: GPNS supports quick decisions to face the housing crisis as the lack of affordable housing has increased homelessness throughout the province and so we would begin right away. We would increase the supply and variety of safe, affordable and quality housing across the province as the affordable housing stock needs to address the needs of all age groups, family sizes, and mobility levels. We plan to increase the mix of affordable accessible housing to include public housing, co-ops, not for profits, small houses, and secondary suites. The mix will include new builds, retrofitting existing buildings, and repurposing empty buildings.
A strong collaboration between government and private developers is necessary. The higher costs of building better now will reduce the future cost of renovations as new units age. Government help will be key in supporting affordable and equitable projects that emit little GHGs and are built to last as the scientific knowledge in this field is rapidly implemented in creative development practices. The possibility of subsidies and tax breaks will have to be carefully studied. The Green Party of Nova Scotia would aim to make 100% of social housing Net Zero Energy Ready (NZER) by 2030.
6. African Nova Scotian and Indigenous Housing: How will you work to meet the needs of African Nova Scotians and Indigenous Nova Scotians experiencing homelessness and housing poverty?
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party recognizes that African Nova Scotians and Indigenous peoples are overrepresented in our homeless populations. Our approaches in addressing housing and homelessness will be driven by local engagement that is reflective of who these approaches impact the most, and how we can ensure that minority groups are not disproportionately impacted by homelessness. We are proud to have our party’s internal Standing Committee on Diversity to consult with on issues just like this. We are committed to collaborating with all appropriate stakeholders upon forming the government to address the housing crisis as quickly and efficiently as possible.
New Democratic Party: An NDP government will create specific funding streams for communities made vulnerable by structural racism and discrimination including African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaw and indigenous people off reserve, people experiencing criminalization, lone parent households and others. These funds could be used to support alternative ownership models including resident-run co-ops and community land trusts as ways to enable community control , and to address intergenerational wealth, by supporting African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw Urban and Off Reserve Indigenous households for ownership through grants and zero interest capital loans.
Liberal Party: We’ve made the single largest investment in homelessness in the province’s history in budget 20-21 with the Integrated Action Plan to Address Homelessness. The Liberal government also signed an agreement to fund the repair and renovation of rental units owned and operated by Tawaak Housing Association. Through the agreement, an investment of $5.4 million will be made to repair and renovate 111 urban native housing units, and maintain existing affordable housing programs and rental rates with 51 rent supplements. We are making progress but more work needs to be done. We must acknowledge the impact of historic systemic racism has had on communities. We must do better, and our discussions must be community led. We will continue to work to ensure greater equity to promote increased access to affordable housing.
Green Party: We acknowledge that historically and in the present day impoverished, particularly racialized, communities in this province have had unequal access to community services and amenities and that those they have had access to have been ineffectual and not culturally relevant. We must work with marginalized communities in Nova Scotia to build these liveable communities, and that includes empowering and providing financial support to leaders in those communities to lead the transition to more liveable and sustainable communities. We would guarantee a liveable income for all living in this province, regardless of employment status or level through existing programs like increasing minimum wage and Income Assistance payments until the implementation of a Guaranteed Liveable Income Program of at least $18,329/yr, increasing to $20,000/yr over 4 years. We would work with the other parties to pass the Environmental Racism bill and work with municipalities and African Nova Scotian & Mi’kmaq communities to eliminate environmental racism across the province. We would increase the supply of shelter beds and transitional housing for the homeless including shelter spaces and supported housing for intact families. We would work with Mi’kmaq leaders to create a Land Back program that will return the management and stewardship of all crown lands to Mi’kmaq communities and create a process for residents of the province to return the stewardship of their land back to Mi’kmaq communities.
7. Rural: What three key things will you implement to ensure that people living in rural communities have safe and affordable housing?
Liberal Party: Our government recognizes that affordable housing is not just a problem for people living in the city. Our rural communities also experience affordable housing challenges, albeit these challenges are often somewhat different and they can experience additional costs in providing water, septic and other services to a new lot. There is also access to transit to consider. On July 6, 2021,, the Liberal government announced that the province will invest $25 million to address immediate investments recommended by the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission to increase affordable housing. These investments, along with investments in Cape Breton and the Valley will ensure vulnerable Nova Scotians have access to permanent, supportive housing with wrap around supports. We invested $553,000 to fund permanent supportive housing for 14 men at two locations in Cape Breton, as well as $1.1 million to the Portal Youth Outreach Association to create three new transitional houses for young people experiencing homelessness in the Annapolis Valley. The houses, planned for Middleton, Kentville and Windsor, will provide housing and supports for 14 youth aged 16 to 21 and will be ready by fall 2021. Our government committed $500,000 to help fund housing needs assessments by our municipal government partners. This will help determine what is needed all across the province and we will use this data to help inform the development of our 10-year Affordable Housing action plan.
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party fully acknowledges that we are in the midst of a housing crisis. Demand across the province has risen to heights that Nova Scotia has never witnessed before, and this crisis is quickly reaching a breaking point. Three key things we will implement to ensure that people living in rural communities have safe and affordable housing are: a. To discourage non Nova Scotian taxpayers from purchasing our properties, driving up prices and taking home ownership for Nova Scotians further out of reach, we are introducing a special deed transfer tax and a property tax levy for individuals who do not pay income tax in Nova Scotia. A deed transfer tax is a one-time payment due at the time of closing a property transaction. Standard deed transfer tax rates are set by each municipality, but range from .5% of the purchase price to 1.5% of the purchase price. For purchasers who do not pay Nova Scotia income tax, our PC government will implement an additional, provincial deed transfer tax of 5%. This tax is in addition to the deed transfer tax set and collected by the respective municipalities. b. As of right now, our development process is too slow. It can take years for a building to be planned and constructed. Development is simply not keeping pace with the growth of our population. A PC government will cut the red tape holding developers back and incentivize them to build right here in Nova Scotia as quickly as possible. It’s imperative that developers know that they are welcome here, and can operate a successful housing business while providing high quality, affordable units to our growing population. c. We will also examine our stock of Nova Scotia lands. This will allow our government to know exactly how much land we have while allowing us to make an informed decision on how much can be used for housing. As of now, we know that approximately 30% of land in Nova Scotia is owned by the government; land which could be used for housing, but is currently sitting vacant. Upon forming the government, one of the first directions the PC government will give to Nova Scotia Lands is to work with Housing Nova Scotia to develop a full inventory of lands owned, and identify areas that could be used for housing. This inventory must be submitted to the Minister within three months of forming the government.
New Democratic Party: We know that the housing crunch is similarly severe outside of Nova Scotia’s urban centres, and an NDP government will make immediate and sustained investment in housing in rural areas. Rural areas also struggle with the increasing stress of short-term rentals, which are becoming more prevalent in scenic rural areas that have great tourism appeal. An NDP government will strengthen the regulation of short term rentals such as AirBnbs to stop the creation of “ghost hotels” and prevent the loss of long-term residential units in rural areas. We know that permanent rent control will make a huge difference for people living in rural areas as well. An NDP government will make this happen, and protect people from losing their housing.
Green Party: We would ensure that there is universal access to rural high-speed internet across the province. We would serve every community of more than 1000 people in Nova Scotia by minimum-twice daily bus service, connecting it to neighbouring communities and regional centres. And we would revitalize emergency services to make them accessible in all areas and communities of the province.
8. In Community: Will your government deliver on the recommendations of “Choice, Equality and Good Lives in Inclusive Communities: A Roadmap for Transforming the Nova Scotia Services to Persons with Disabilities Program” and commit the funds needed to ensure Nova Scotians requiring support will be housed in their communities and not institutions?
New Democratic Party: Yes — people have been deeply disappointed by the Liberal government’s inaction on implementing the roadmap over the last eight years. An NDP government will immediately develop an accelerated plan to implement the roadmap, with the goal of completing its elements within the first mandate. This will include accelerating the building of small options homes for people with disabilities.
Liberal Party: The Liberal Party’s commitment to move Disability Support Program participants into the community will continue with the establishment of new small option homes across the province. The development of more community-based homes for people with disabilities is part of the Liberal government’s commitment to being an accessible province by 2030. There are currently 225 community-based, small option homes in Nova Scotia.
Progressive Conservative Party: The commitment to have Nova Scotia residents of adult residential facilities living and contributing to society in a more independent, community-focused manner was formally started in June of 2013 by an NDP government. It originally had a 5-year timeline with goals and milestones, providing much hope to the residents of ARCs, their families, and the community at large that real change was finally going to occur. The Liberal government, when adopting this roadmap in 2014, changed this to a 10-year timeline to be completed in 2023. The chair of Community Homes Action Group remains skeptical of the 2023 deadline being achieved due to the high levels of inaction from the Liberals since the roadmap was initiated. With a waitlist larger than where it began when the Liberals took over, it is highly unlikely that the Roadmap will be achieved by the deadline, leaving many in adult residential facilities. Nova Scotia is the only province to not have closed our large adult residential facilities. The PC Party fully understands the benefits of housing people at home in their own communities. Our commitment to housing people at home with every available opportunity is evident in our platform where we are fully committed to at-home senior care to those who want it, at-home physio for those who need it, and full support of the phasing out of adult residential facilities as soon as possible to give those with special needs the opportunity to live their life the way they want – in their own communities.
Green Party: Yes. We will provide funding for informal caregivers who currently go unpaid or underpaid, such as friends and family members. We will supply a number of independent and community-living options so that people with disabilities are no longer waiting on years-long lists or stuck with only long-term care homes or expensive in-home nursing as their only options. We will guarantee that disability benefits aren’t lost when living situations change, and we will follow the research recommendations to the best of our abilities, in consultation with the people who will be most directly affected.
9. Innovation: What key innovations are you prepared to spearhead? For example, would you support a rent bank to prevent income-based evictions, a non-profit affordable housing development corporation, housing and supports for rural youth to reduce risks and force them to leave natural supports and migrate to urban shelters for safety, a lived experience housing advisory within Housing Nova Scotia that includes rural and urban members or other innovative responses to housing need?
Progressive Conservative Party: As previously mentioned, we are prepared to get Nova Scotia Lands to work with Housing Nova Scotia to develop a full inventory of lands owned and identify areas that could be used for housing. This will allow work to get underway immediately in determining best uses of those lands. Any additional innovations will require stakeholder engagement from all sectors to make informed decisions.
New Democratic Party: We know that after multiple years of disinvestment in affordable housing we will need creative approaches to providing access to housing, quickly. One example of this that an NDP government will implement immediately is a permanent Housing Trust where provincial, municipal, and private resources can be polled so that non-profit housing providers can quickly access in order to acquire and provide affordable housing. We also know that we need to exercise tools that already exist — such as the right of first refusal for government to be able to acquire existing housing stock that would be owned publicly or by non-profit providers or co-operatives. These are the kinds of solutions that we know need to be implemented and acted upon immediately in order to solve Nova Scotia’s housing crisis. We also know that the best, most creative and innovative solutions will come from working with those community organizations who are most on the ground and connected to the immediate needs of people who are housing insecure. An NDP government will make this kind of collaboration a priority.
Liberal Party: A re-elected Rankin government will tackle the affordable housing challenge using a variety of approaches. To help increase the supply of purpose-built affordable rental we will rebate the provincial portion of the HST on construction costs for construction of affordable housing units. Our initial program will cover two years with $25 million earmarked for each year. The goal of the program is to incentivize the construction of 1,000 affordable housing units in each of the two years for a total of 2,000 new affordable rental units. To tackle supply for single persons and our seniors a re-elected Rankin government will make amendments to provincial legislation to permit secondary suites and garage lofts in residential premises across the province. We will also explore innovative ways of incentivizing the construction of these suites, such as forgivable loans that will cover part of the capital costs of building secondary suites if the homeowner agrees to rent the suites at affordable rates. We will also look at ways to incentivize the construction, and preservation, of single room occupancies like boarding or rooming houses. Finally we will institute a Provincial Loan program for non-profit housing organizations to acquire affordable units as detailed above.
Green Party: We are open to any and all innovations that strengthen communities, increase choice and opportunities for housing-seekers, and help people to find safe, stable, and supportive homes. We believe in the value of multi-use buildings with units of varying sizes and purposes, with communal amenities, people of all ages, economic levels, and ability levels, and a continuum of possibilities for support – from independence to interdependence. We want to work with all people living on this land to build communities that are sustainable, equitable and just, where everyone can thrive. We need to build liveable communities that are complete. We dream of communities where everything that one needs is accessible within a short 10-15 minute walking distance: school, work, shopping, community services, parks, and efficient public transit. We want to revitalize rural communities in Nova Scotia, and refocus urban and suburban communities on building up walkable amenities and services everywhere.
As recommended by the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, we would establish an arm’s length independent provincial housing entity led by those with a variety of first-hand lived housing experience.
10. Internal Collaboration: What is your specific plan to ensure collaboration across government departments?
Liberal Party: Our Liberal government is committed to collaboration across departments, with other levels of government and with community stakeholders. We moved the Housing department to be with Infrastructure to ensure it is an elevated priority and aligned with our proven ambition to build modern infrastructure across the province, like what is taking place in health care, education and roads.
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party will ensure collaboration between government departments resumes, as we have seen the negative consequences that occur when power is centralized to hand-picked government offices. An example of the failure stemming from a lack of collaboration across governments is the centralization of our healthcare administration to one office in Halifax, which creates unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and doesn’t allow local decision-making or input. We look forward to working with local municipalities to understand their needs for housing. We will ensure that all levels of government, especially on the municipal level, have a strong voice on the provincial stage. We are also committing to creating a new Department of Mental Health and Addictions in order to ensure that the Department of Health does not continue to be stretched too thin. A new department requires a dedicated Minister to focus solely on mental health and addictions, ensuring that the necessary resources are available to address mental health in Nova Scotia. The success of this venture is dependent on collaboration with local communities and other government departments, especially the Department of Health.
New Democratic Party: Our party believes strongly in the need for collaborative decision-making and will establish a culture of collaboration among government departments should we form government on August 17th. An example of where this might begin is with allowing municipalities to require affordable housing through inclusionary zoning, as they have requested for some time.
Green Party: The Green Party of Nova Scotia does not whip votes. This means that GPNS candidates and any elected representatives from our party, although vetted to be sure core values align, are free to represent their constituencies’ needs when making decisions. We aim for collaboration over competition and are willing to acknowledge and support good ideas and progressive policies, regardless of where they originate. We are committed to working with all levels of government to eradicate poverty and find housing solutions for all residents of Nova Scotia.
11. Mental Health and Addictions: How will you ensure that clinical mental health supports are available in a timely fashion for people whose housing is jeopardized because of unmet mental health needs? What’s your commitment to the provision of harm reduction and addiction supports and what’s your timeline on this?
New Democratic Party: We truly believe that mental health care is just as important as physical health care. Mental health care is a key priority for the NDP and we are committed to advocating for stronger supports and increased services for everyone. Nova Scotians report one of the highest lifetime prevalence rates of mental health disorders in Canada. The Liberal government has left mental health care unaddressed for too long, and people are in dire need of help. This is why an NDP government will create a new system of public mental health clinics that provide access to same day/ next day appointments, as well as new emergency mental health crisis response teams. Further, an NDP will fund mental health services to the World Health Organization’s recommended 10 percent of the health budget. People with mental health conditions deserve to be safe and supported by appropriately trained health care professionals, rather than the police.
Liberal Party: The Liberal Party is a strong advocate for increased access to mental health services. That’s why Premier Rankin created the Office of Mental Health and Additions and is committing in the platform to invest $4 million annually to launch 8 new mental health walk-in clinics to ensure that Nova Scotians struggling with mental health issues can receive timely, appropriate, and dedicated treatment from a team of specialized professionals. We know the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult on people with mental health or addiction issues and we want to be there to support recovery. The Liberal government provided $500,000 to support a safe, supervised injection site to prevent overdose as part of the battle against opioid addiction in the province. The site provides new needles and can connect clients with treatment programs. We are also exploring treatment options such as Managed Alcohol Programs to provide better care for those struggling with alcohol addiction.
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party is the only party to put forward a fully-costed platform, a key component of which is universal mental health coverage which will open the MSI billing codes to allow private psychologists to bill the province for services rendered to patients who cannot otherwise afford it. This means that Nova Scotians will be able to access mental health support when they need it, how they need it, and where they need it. No longer will they be required to wait in a walk-in clinic for hours only to get a referral for months down the road, and no longer will people need to travel far away from their communities to get the appropriate public mental health services. Fixing healthcare, including mental health, is a priority commitment of ours that will take place on day one of our government. Early intervention is key to mitigating long term issues and minimizing the level of care needed. The sooner Nova Scotians get the help they deserve, the better off they will be. As mentioned above, we are also committed to the creation of a new Department of Mental Health and Addictions.
Green Party: We advocate for patient-first health care and recognize the need for better integrated systems of support and care. We would, as expediently as possible:
● Provide incentives to medical clinics so they can open on evenings and weekends
● Increase the budget of Public Health so it can fulfill its prevention mandate
● Invest in well-coordinated mental health and addiction services and improve the transition between services including supportive housing services
● Invest in regional mobile mental health crisis intervention services
● Improve access to mental health services for people living with disabilities, 2SLGBTQQIA+, BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour), newcomers, migrants, and other marginalized peoples
● Mandate ongoing cultural sensitivity and anti-oppression training for all healthcare professionals, ensuring that they are well educated on
treating 2SLGBTQQIA+ patients and addiction patients without prejudice or stigma.
12. Permanence: Permanent supportive housing is a critical response for many people who experience chronic homelessness. What role will the Province play to ensure sufficient new permanent supportive housing spaces are created in HRM and across Nova Scotia?
Progressive Conservative Party: The PC solution to address chronic homelessness will be to cut the red tape surrounding the construction of new units, allowing new units to be constructed much quicker than the current timeframe, which currently can take years to build a new apartment building. Once we have an abundance of vacant units, prices will stop skyrocketing to prices that are unobtainable by too many citizens, and will instead stabilize. A PC government will also encourage developers to build right here in Nova Scotia as quickly as possible. It’s imperative that developers know that they are welcome here, and can operate a successful housing business while providing high quality, affordable units to our growing population.
New Democratic Party: An NDP government will be committed to ending homelessness. This requires sustained and immediate investment in significant non-market housing, along with supporting housing organizations to build supportive housing. An NDP government will make immediate investments to enable the building of 1,000 new affordable housing units across the province where they are most needed. An NDP government will create the housing units that Nova Scotians need without further delay, while bringing in permanent rent control so that people who already have homes can stay there. An NDP government will also implement legislation that enshrines the right to housing. This legislation would ensure:
• That actions be taken to progressively realize the right to housing a reasonable time frame.
• That timelines established enable Nova Scotia to eliminate homelessness by 2030 as Canada has agreed to under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Liberal Party: The Liberal Party believes very strongly in permanent supportive housing for people across the province. We have invested $6.4 million in Supportive Housing initiatives including 72 beds for the Halifax area, as well as $100,000 to develop a proposal for a community-based, permanent housing project for up to 100 women and children. Also included is an investment of $3.5 million for the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia to purchase properties in Halifax for supportive housing. These units will provide permanent homes for individuals requiring wrap around supports for people with the highest needs who might otherwise remain homeless. We have invested $1.8 million annually for client services such as clinical care, peer support, addictions, and mental health supports. This funding is part of a province-wide effort to ensure Nova Scotians who are experiencing homelessness have safe, available housing, and to create more options for permanent supportive housing. As part of the Action Plan, new supports have been added including 15 additional housing support workers in HRM (total of 23), 8 additional housing support workers across the rest of the province (total of 10), 1 housing locator in HRM, 7 community trustee programs (financial management – eviction prevention/ access to rentals), 3 Intensive Case Managers (housing support for very high acuity) and 4 Diversion workers to support individuals leaving Corrections and Health services.
Green Party: We would work with the other parties to push for significant increases to the availability and affordability of permanent supportive housing throughout the province. We acknowledge this critical need.