Halifax regional council wants to direct $11 million in federal funding to build 38 deeply affordable homes on Brunswick Street.

The funding comes from the third round of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rapid Housing Initiative.

With the first two rounds of the program, HRM directed money to 142 homes in six projects. Those include Adsum’s 25-unit Sunflower project, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Society’s 21-unit Diamond Bailey House, and the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia’s 65-room hotel conversion, the Overlook.

For this round, CMHC offered HRM $11,028,394 to create at least 36 homes where residents spend no more than 30% of their income on rent.

Last month, council directed staff to sign an agreement with CMHC and solicit proposals. It received 10 proposals, according to a report to council on Tuesday by planner Jillian MacLellan.

MacLellan told councillors on Tuesday that it was “especially hard” to choose from the projects for this round.

“If we had more funds, there are several other projects on that list that you know I would have loved to have been able to recommend funding as well to,” MacLellan said.

But she ultimately recommended all the money go to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP).

38 units next to Hope Cottage

The international Catholic volunteer organization wants to build 38 homes at 2445 Brunswick St.

Currently a parking lot, the property is next door to the society’s Hope Cottage, a soup kitchen.

“The property is located in close proximity [to] various transit routes and to several services and amenities including Hope Cottage and the North End Community Health Centre (NECHC),” MacLellan wrote.

“The development will target those who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless and will prioritize individuals/households from the By-Name List.”

Two black and white sketchs show a plan for a three-storey apartment building next to a smaller, one-storey building.
A rendering of the proposal from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, with its existing Hope Cottage building on the right. Credit: HRM/Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

Per the agreement with CMHC, 25% of the units would be prioritized for women, and 15% for either African Nova Scotian or urban Indigenous people.

The NECHC would provide support services for people living in the building.

It would be complete by Nov. 1, 2024, within the 18 months required by CMHC. The property is zoned for multi-unit development, MacLellan wrote. It will have to abide by heritage requirements for the area.

Councillors support staff choice

Coun. Lindell Smith said he’s been talking with the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul about building housing for years.

“They’ve been doing this work for a very, very long time, and they’re pretty aware of the necessity and the population that they want to serve,” Smith said.

“To see how far along they are in the process, I think is a reason why we’re here today … They seemed the most ready for the rapid aspect of this.”

Mayor Mike Savage praised the federal government for the Rapid Housing Initative.

“We need supply, we all know that. But supply will not cure homelessness by itself. We need purpose-built, deeply affordable housing units in our community and across the country,” Savage said.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the plan to submit an application to CMHC to provide the money to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Provincial funding needed to make project a reality

The total estimated cost of the project is about $14.6 million — more than the funding allocated.

“As such, SSVP and HRM staff have been in contact with the Province of Nova Scotia to secure the necessary additional capital funding,” MacLellan wrote.

“While discussions with the province to date have been encouraging, should the province be unable to provide additional funding, HRM and SSVP will need to secure the additional $3.56 million through another source. Should this not be possible, HRM may return the $11,028,394 to CMHC and cancel the contribution agreement.”

No combination of the 10 submissions would have made up the required 36 units, MacLellan noted.

HRM has also asked the province to pitch in operating funding for NECHC’s support services.

“While agreements confirming funding will not be finalized until a time closer to the occupancy date, the Department of Community Services recognizes that this project aligns with the mandate of the department and that the operational needs are in-line with programs of similar nature,” MacLellan wrote.

CMHC provides final approval of the project. The municipality will submit its proposal to the federal organization by March 15.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Its sad that I read this on International Womens Day. But here we are.

    Its not to say that these builds are not important and welcome. BUT we need to change the terms under which our governments fund these projects. And if we are committed to improving economic equity we need to do it now.

    We, the people (often women), raise money and/or divert tax money to build the building… and pay all of the trades fair market wage to do that work. The trades in NS are well north of 96% male. Then we open the doors and coerce female-dominated trades and professionals to donate their time because we are out of money.

    We do this over… and over… and over… and over again.

    THIS IS WHAT SYSTEMIC MiSOGYNY LOOKS LIKE. Let’s open our eyes; name it; shame it, address it and eliminate it.

    The vast majority of those who either have to donate their time or take drastically reduced wages are women. These types of announcements are anti-feminist.

    Unless the government money for investment in facilities like this comes with a commitment from the organization to set aside enough of the capital to guarantee living wages for all who work there, we’re pouring a prison with that concrete that cements the continued economic suppression of women.

    Want to enable women to escape intimate partner violence? Start by giving them economic independence. Want to do that? Start by stopping this kind of blindly misogynistic political spending.

    So either commit to paying all who will work there the current living wage in Halifax… or ask the male trades who work ON the building to volunteer or work for token amounts of money to that those who work IN the building can be paid fairly. Anything else is wrong. Full stop. Happy Day After International Women’s Day.