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 build in partnership and 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.