By Karen Bradley
Everyone on social media knows the pleas for local housing: from an apartment that went from $650 to $1950 with no apparent upgrades to single moms looking for anything at all, yard or not, for herself and 3 children to a young person couch-surfing and hoping for even a tiny basement apartment.
Pam MacLeod is the housing navigator that the Old School has hired to help people living in precarity or seeking emergency or immediate housing along the Shore and in the Musquodoboit Valley.
“I have a roster of 49 people right now who need housing due to raised rents, homes being sold from under them, or any of a dozen other reasons, none of them their own fault,” MacLeod told the Cooperator. “We have been able to help a few people find housing in town but there is no housing stock in the rural areas at all.”
“We really need emergency housing. I have someone living in their shop and someone living in a tent. They work out here, so moving into town is not an option for them, even if they could afford a place there. I have single moms and dads, young people, older folks—it’s not just one demographic in the rural areas. People are living in precarious situations or are in imminent danger of losing a place completely.”
Pam has been meeting with housing officials and staff from HRM and the Province. There is a good deal of concern, she says, but not enough urgency.
Both the Province and the municipality have ongoing programs that include rent subsidies and some protections for renters. There is funding for nonprofit groups to develop housing projects (the Old School has a grant from the Province to design such a project.) But the process is not swift, despite the desire to address the challenges.
Kent Smith, the MLA for our area, has been actively supportive of the need for emergency and long-term housing options. “I will be looking at a report on abandoned houses by the end of this month,” he told the Cooperator. “The HRM Task force has approved 22,600 new housing builds as well. The overall goal is to increase supply.”
What else can be done? Pam Macleod is passionate about solutions but points out, “People need to stop being so greedy, like jacking up the rent or selling houses out from under people. I wish someone would buy a decent 4-bedroom, 3-bath home and let us place some people in there, even temporarily. But really, the government needs to act swiftly and effectively, because winter is coming and sleeping in a tent is not an option.” (Contact Pam Macleod at the Old School, 902-889-2735.)
[Editor’s note: Karen Bradley is co-chair of The Old School.]