Understanding Affordable Housing Recommendations

On May 31, the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission (NSAHC) released their report, Charting a new course for affordable housing in Nova Scotia. It includes recommendations on changes to improve rental housing for people across the province. Much like United Way Halifax’s Building Poverty Solutions report, it sets the stage using facts and statistics.  The report explains the housing continuum, provides facts about the cost of renting, vulnerable populations, and contributing factors to housing need. It also details how people and organizations were consulted for the report. Over 2,000 voices were consulted as part of these recommendations, from across Nova Scotia.

United Way Halifax submitted a letter to the NSAHC with our own recommendations for action. Affordable housing is one of our priorities and we believe that housing is a human right.

While some of our recommendations were solutions to address homelessness, the recommendations from the NSAHC did not look at homelessness. Their focus was only on affordable housing. Here are some highlights of the report where we found alignment with our own recommendations.

We recommended:

  • Allowing municipalities the right to enact Inclusionary Zoning ordinances

NSAHC’s recommendations:

Recommendation #3 Modernize provincial legislation and regulations
The successful implementation of our recommendations requires amendments to provincial legislation and regulations, such as allowing the use of inclusionary zoning and providing incentives to both community housing and private sector developers of affordable housing.

We recommended:

  • Addressing the disproportionate effects of housing insecurity on marginalized populations through targeted investment strategies
  • Expanding and/or developing capital funding programs for small-scale, community oriented affordable housing construction/retrofitting

NSAHC’s recommendations:

Recommendation #6 Support the creation of more affordable housing, prioritizing a mixed-income, multi-partner approach

Prioritize mixed-income and mixed-use approaches, which combine affordable and market units as well as residential and commercial space, to promote inclusiveness and financial viability.

Consider opportunities to create dedicated program streams for specific populations, sectors, and regions (rural & urban, underrepresented communities, and community housing); increase dedicated funding for rent supplements, and review existing programs to meet client needs and ensure access to people with very low income.

Recommendation #10 Build community housing capacity

Strengthening our co-ops and non-profits could boost communities in need of more public or private housing. Growing this sector is critical to ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing options for those who can’t afford market rent, as well as meeting the needs of vulnerable and underrepresented groups

Recommendation #12 Expand housing options that meet the needs of seniors and vulnerable Nova Scotians

Programs that support affordability and very low rent options for vulnerable populations are crucial, such as programs to reduce costs for households in core housing need like rent supplements. It also includes dedicated resources to creating non-traditional housing options (single-room occupancies, or secondary suites, tiny homes, or laneway houses built using modular construction), which are some of the most affordable forms of housing for single persons.

Government should ensure older homeowners and renters can find stable, suitable, safe, and affordable housing.

Recommendation #13 Provide targeted resources and supports to vulnerable and underrepresented communities

Participants in our engagement process asked for the provincial government to forge relationships of mutual trust and respect with underrepresented communities to understand their diverse housing needs. There could be target investments to create opportunities for preservation and expansion of sustainable affordable rental housing across Nova Scotia where people want to live.

We recommended:

  • Enabling “Preserve or Replace” legislation for all existing affordable housing stock in critical markets

NSAHC recommendations:

Recommendation #9 Prevent the loss of affordable homes

Retrofitting existing, older, rental stock is generally less expensive than new construction and helps keep people in their homes. It is also more cost-effective to create accessible units for people with disabilities by renovating existing units than building new rental housing.

Other considerations

The NSAHC’s report contains many other recommendations that are not directly related to what we’ve identified in our letter. However, there is a strong focus on collaboration, which we think is necessary to address serious, long-term issues like affordable housing.

We encourage others to read the report for themselves. What sticks out for you? What recommendations should we be asking our elected officials to consider supporting right away? What’s missing? It’s on all of us to consider the options and speak up to make change.