WELCOME
to the Housing Trust of
Nova Scotia

The combination of rent levels in any one building helps keep the building financially sustainable and allows a range of households to afford to live in a neighbourhood. That can help keep a community diverse and vibrant. 

At the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia, our purpose is to collaborate and partner to build and maintain diverse and livable communities in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), and our primary mission is to provide good quality, affordable housing for low to moderate-income households in communities where the cost of housing is skyrocketing.

The combination of rent levels in any one building helps keep the building financially sustainable and allows a range of households to afford to live in a neighbourhood. That can help keep a community diverse and vibrant.

The Housing Trust owns a total of 295 units. Our goal is to acquire 1,000 units by 2030, transitioning units from the private sector to the community or non-profit sector where affordability will be protected. We’ll implement our “mixed-income” model, ensuring that buildings are more affordable to HRM’s workforce and people on fixed incomes.

Our work is focused in the HRM and on acquisition. In the future, we aspire to work across Nova Scotia and partner with governments and non- and for-profit organizations to develop new affordable housing and community amenities. There is also an essential role for all of us to play in promoting the growth and success of the non-profit or community housing sector.

ABOUT US

Why is affordable housing important?

Affordable housing is imperative to the health of individuals and families; its the base from which people grown and prosper. It’s also essential to the success of commercial and economic hubs where an accessible workforce is need to provide vital supports and services.

How do we provide affordable housing?

The Housing Trust can provide affordable housing because, unlike the private sector, it focuses on people, not profit.

We buy older existing apartment buildings in walkable, livable neighbourhoods that we revitalize and then rent out on a mixed-income model basis . The purchase of existing buildings can be more cost-effective when compared to new construction, and rents in older buildings can already be affordable to moderate-income households. When we purchase a building, it transitions from the private sector to the community sector ownership, where its affordability is protected. That is very important in neighbourhoods experiencing gentrification and increasing average rents. Our properties in the HRM  meet this description. 

What does “mixed-model” mean?

Each of our buildings will contain rented units at rates accessible to moderate- and middle-income households mixed with units that offer enhanced support/affordability for lower-income households. That is the “mixed-income” model. The combination of rent levels in any one building helps keep the building financially sustainable and allows a range of households to afford to live in a neighbourhood. That can help keep a community diverse and vibrant.

When we build new, our developments will include a mix of residences and community amenities, for example, daycare, coffee shops, small businesses, or office space. That is a “mixed-use” model, and it can provide additional revenue to help keep residential rents affordable and also help build liveable and vibrant communities. 

What are other things we do to enable us to provide affordability?

We always work in partnership. The solution to the housing crisis involves everyone, including government and the private sector. Support from all levels of government can help us keep rents lower when we acquire and renovate units. For example, the HRM provides a 50% property tax rebate to eligible non-profit housing providers; savings help sustain affordable rents.

We take advantage of government programs that encourage and support non-profit housing providers. These programs might help with renovations or help reduce the buildings’ carbon emissions and achieve environmental efficiencies.

We pay close attention to a property’s financial and environmental sustainability when buying and revitalizing them, looking for environmental enhancements to help us control costs and reduce our buildings’ environmental impacts.

Why do the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia and the community housing sector matter?

Affordable housing is a complex issue.

Affordable housing is a complex issue and not one the government, even working with the private sector, can solve alone. The community or non-profit housing sector has an important role to play alongside the private sector in meeting communities’ diverse housing needs. In other provinces, the non-profit housing sector (including cooperatives) plays a more significant role in meeting the affordable housing needs of low- and moderate-income households. The Housing Trust wants to be part of growing the community housing sector in Nova Scotia and increase the number of good quality affordable units we own.

The cost of new construction is going up.

Land prices and new construction costs are steadily increasing across the HRM and Nova Scotia, making it more difficult for the private sector to offer affordable rents for lower- and moderate-income households. In a tight rental market like the one experienced in HRM over the past years, rents tend to increase. Older buildings near established communities are often renewed, renovated, and reintroduced to the market at much higher rents. Many people need to find new homes, changing the look of what were once diverse communities.

When average rents increase dramatically, lower to moderate-income groups can be priced out of a community, and that can hurt business and the environment.

When a group of people are priced out of a community, that community often loses vital parts of its workforce. If they are pushed to the outskirts, there is an environmental impact from increasing long commutes, or bustling and growing commercial centres like Halifax and Dartmouth can find themselves without an accessible workforce to perform many jobs. That has negative impacts on local businesses. 

HRM prides itself on being vibrant, diverse, and welcoming to existing and new Nova Scotians. Affordable housing is essential to creating and maintaining that spirit across our communities.

Non-profit groups are not profit-driven.

Non-profit housing providers face the same development and operational costs as the for-profit sector except in cases where government funding is designed to help non-profit housing providers specifically. For example, the HRM offers community-based housing providers relief on their annual property taxes.

Non-profit housing providers, unlike the private sector, do not have to think about making a profit. However, rents still have to cover operational costs (heat, lights, insurance, taxes, etc.) ranging from $400 a unit per month to $600 a month for newly constructed units. Like a for-profit sector housing provider, the non-profit housing provider needs to plan for and fund major capital expenditures when roofs, windows, elevators, etc., need to be replaced.  

What’s left is available to pay a mortgage, support enhanced affordability, and acquire additional affordable units. The primary goal is affordability, and the focus is people and community.

Who are our
RESIDENTS

Who are our residents?

The Housing Trust’s residents are diverse but share a desire to live near transit, work, and community amenities, in good quality, affordable rental housing in walkable communities where average market rents can be out of reach for low to moderate-income households. Some residents live on fixed incomes – perhaps a pension – and many are part of the workforce.

The workforce includes a long list of people who work in a community but may not be able to afford to live there. Members of the workforce and Housing Trust residents represent many occupations, including:

  • Custodians
  • Healthcare workers
  • Shelter staff
  • Hotel workers
  • Artists
  • Cultural workers
  • New graduates
  • Young professionals
  • Retirees
  • Restaurant and retail workers
  • …and many more

 

Because the Housing Trust invests in established buildings, its rents are lower than the market rents for new developments in the same neighbourhoods. That makes them already affordable to many households. For others, the Housing Trust can provide additional support to households that need it.

The Median Renter Income (MRI) in HRM is $49,900. Rent of approximately $1,247 a month is considered affordable and attainable at that income level.

 Revisit our site soon to meet some of our residents.

How can I apply for housing with the Housing Trust?

The Housing Trust is focused on acquiring more units. We work with a property management company that provides the day-to-day management of our buildings and works closely with resident managers.

Our buildings are fully rented, and we are working on an application process when units become available. Check back for more information if you or someone you know is interested in living in one of our buildings.

OUR BUILDINGS

The Housing Trust acquired five multi-family buildings on June 30, 2022. The buildings are located in Halifax and Dartmouth, in walkable communities, near many amenities and busy commercial areas. They were built in the late sixties and early seventies, and over the next two to three years, we will work to revitalize the buildings and renew many of the units. We’ll also work with green building experts to minimize each building’s environmental impact.

27 Evans Avenue, Halifax

More information coming soon

25 Evans Avenue, Halifax

More information coming soon

18 Crown Drive, Halifax

More information coming soon

240 Portland Street, Dartmouth

More information coming soon

18 Albert Street, Dartmouth

More information coming soon

We have plans to increase the number of buildings in our portfolio over the coming years to play a significant role in providing good quality affordable housing. We are looking for opportunities to buy from the private sector to transition units from the for-profits sector to the non-profit sector, where the units’ affordability will be protected.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Housing Trust resident, please watch this website. We’ll announce when units are available.

OUR
BOARD

Who is the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia?

The Housing Trust of Nova Scotia was founded in 2009 to address the increasing challenges facing low to moderate-income households in finding affordable housing in many HRM neighbourhoods, especially ones near established and emerging business centres in walkable communities.

Our original intent was to build and manage affordable multifamily rental buildings utilizing a “mixed-income” model and targeting a 50/50 mix of affordable and market-rate units. In 2021, the Housing Trust pivoted to an acquisition strategy to accelerate its impact and maximize the number of units it stewards for the community.

Since its founding, its board members have been leaders in the private real estate sector, with expertise in real estate finance, law, development, architecture, and property management. This depth and breadth of experience and knowledge are an advantage in building a strong non-profit housing provider. Over time, the board added expertise in environmental sustainability. It’s now actively engaged in succession planning to represent the community better and respond to emerging opportunities while maintaining its focus on skills and expertise.

Meet our Board

Ross Cantwell

Director and President

President, HRM Apartments

Ross Cantwell brings over 30 years’ experience as a real estate advisor, developer, and property manager to the Housing Trust.  That experience includes the role that sparked his interest in affordable housing—working as a project manager for a San Francisco-based non-profit housing developer.

In 2004, now living in Nova Scotia, Cantwell co-authored the affordable housing report that the Halifax Regional Municipality used as the basis of its regional plan.  That report identified what became the genesis of the Housing Trust: the idea that a local non-profit housing group could build and manage a portfolio of affordable apartment units.

Five years later, Cantwell helped establish the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia and has been President ever since.

Cantwell is a former certified public accountant with a master’s degree in real estate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dan Goodspeed

Director

Founding partner, Kassner/Goodspeed Architects

In his four decades’ experience as an architect, Dan Goodspeed has designed and overseen projects ranging from high-rise residential projects to single-family homes.

Goodspeed’s firm has received numerous awards and citations for their work in Atlantic Canada, repeatedly demonstrating their ability to develop strong design solutions that integrate green principles.

Like Cantwell, Goodspeed has also helped shape HRM’s policy landscape by contributing to bylaw design in the municipality.

Goodspeed has represented his profession on many committees, including the Halifax Heritage Advisory Committee, and has been active with Dalhousie Architecture and Planning.

Isaac Hashem

Director and Treasurer

Portfolio Manager, Infrastructure at Nova Scotia Pension Services Corporation

As treasurer, Isaac Hashem uses his 35 years’ experience as a chartered professional accountant to ensure the Housing Trust is financially stable and flexible today and in the future.

His background includes a wide variety of industries, ranging from embedded systems and consumer packaged goods to technology and healthcare.  Along with experience in commercial real estate, he was also the previous vice-president and chief financial officer at Southwest Properties Ltd, one of Halifax’s premier owners/operators of multifamily real estate.

Lara Ryan

Director

President, Lara Ryan Consulting

Lara Ryan works to promote climate action through stakeholder engagement, by supporting policy development and by creating and implementing environmental, social and governance strategies.  In short, she’s working to green building practices in Nova Scotia.

Ryan’s background is in the not-for-profit sector.  Most recently, she served for 12 years as regional director Atlantic for the Canada Green Building Council and is a member of the board of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, as well as the Housing Trust.

Louie Lawen

Director

President & CEO Dexel Development, co-found Paramount Management

Louie Lawen has 25 years’ experience developing, designing, constructing, and managing some of Halifax’s signature buildings.  His work, which focuses on urban multi-unit mixed-use projects, has been recognized with many awards, including the multi-unit development of the year award from the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia.

A committed community volunteer, Lawen is an active member of Saint Antonios Orthodox Church and has served on several boards, including the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Lawen believes that good planning and design are pillars of a healthy society, which is why he founded the George Lawen / Dexel Scholarship to provide an award to a student entering the final year of the Master of Planning program who intends to pursue a career in the Maritimes.

Brian Tabor

Director and Secretary

Partner, Stewart McKelvey

As a commercial lawyer with extensive experience in real estate, Brian Taylor expertly navigates increasingly complex acquisitions and financing arrangements.  He has been included in the Real Estate Law’s Best Lawyers Listing every year since 2008 and the Lexpert® rating: Property Development each year since 2010.

Glenn Umlah

Director

Senior vice-president, CBRE

Glenn Umlah uses his 30 years of financial experience to arrange large loan financing for real estate owners and developers on new and existing multi-residential land development, commercial, and industrial properties.

Before joining CBRE, after several years in senior positions with many nationally focused lenders, Umlah formed Equity Mortgage Corporation Limited, a commercial mortgage brokerage firm operating throughout Atlantic Canada between 1990 and 2017.

Umlah is a regular panellist for the debt session at the Atlantic Real Estate Forum and is well known across the Canadian capital markets.

Audrey Moritz

Director

Housing finance professional

As a former vice-president, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Audrey Moritz’s work focused on housing finance, market research and analytics, sustainability, social inclusion and diversity.  Her experiences include leading national teams, talent management, policy and program development, intergovernmental relations, program operations and delivery.

Moritz brings a breadth of experience working with housing providers across the housing continuum, from private developers to cooperative and non-profit housing providers in Canada and is pleased to now contribute directly to the Housing Trust.

Advisors to the board

Matthew Newell

Partner, Stewart McKelvey

Matt Pendlebury

Vice president, CBRE

Angela Bishop

Acting ED

ICD.D

Angela joined the Housing Trust with twenty-years of leadership experience in the non-profit sector.  She has worked in diverse roles always with the goal of creating vital and vibrant communities.  Angela worked to advance solutions to the affordable and homeless crisis twenty years ago and joining the Housing Trust as it first Executive Director is like coming home.

Angela is excited to be working with dedicated volunteer Board who are leveraging their exceptional expertise and experience in building a legacy for the HRM community of safe, quality, and affordable homes.   

NEWS

Coming Soon…

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