The Nova Scotia government, Halifax Regional Municipality, and two private developers will build a rent-geared-to-income tiny home community in Lower Sackville, with residents moving in the autumn of 2024.
The project will be the first community of its kind in Nova Scotia, but will also displace people who are now living in tents on the land on which the tiny homes will be built.
The province made the announcement in a news release on Wednesday. The community will be located on Cobequid Road and will consist of 52 units, providing housing for 62 people (several of the homes will be double occupancy).
Rents for the homes will be geared to income, with residents paying no more than 30% of their incomes to stay in the homes. Residents of the community will also receive wraparound supports to find employment and more permanent housing.
In the news release, the province said it anticipated that 30 units will be complete by next spring, with residents moving in that summer. The remainder of the homes will be ready by the fall of 2024.
“If successful, similar communities may be created in other areas of HRM and across the province,” the news release said.
Prestige Homes, which is part of the Shaw Group, will build the homes, while Dexter Construction will provide site services and land preparation. The municipality provided the land for the project at no cost.
But that land where the community will be built — a baseball field at the corner of Cobequid Road and Glendale Avenue — now houses a sanctioned site for people living in tents.
The Halifax Examiner asked the Department of Community Services what will happen to those residents currently living in tents at the sanctioned site. Spokesperson Christina Deveau said outreach workers will work closely with those residents to make sure they have somewhere to go.
“That may be supportive housing or an emergency shelter — or the Pallet shelters.
We want to ensure we’re respectful and HRM Outreach workers have already been in contact with those living on the ballfield. We want them to be part of the process and we’ll work to see that they are supported,” Deveau wrote in an email.
Also on Wednesday, the province announced it was spending money to add more shelter supports this winter. That includes funding to a company called Pallet to build more small shelters.
Deveau told the Examiner the single occupany tiny homes will measure 16’ by 10’, while the double occupancy homes are 12’ by 18’6”.
Deveau said these homes will be considered transition housing, and who will live in them and for how long will be up to the “new entity to be established with the private sector, government, and community providers.”
“The initial board of management will be responsible for bringing on the full board complement and hiring an Executive Director and Project Manager to oversee the project implementation,” Deveau wrote.
“Some people may stay only a few months and others a couple of years. Our intention is to support people to increase their independence and ultimately find permanent housing that best meets their needs. That could include alternative supportive housing, public housing, or market level housing.”
‘This is likely needed in other communities’
Michael Kabalen, the executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS), said as of yesterday, there are 1,014 people on the HRM by-name list that will be used to determine who gets a tiny home at the Lower Sackville site. That number is up by nine people from last week’s count.
Kabalen said of that number, 741 people are experiencing chronic homelessness, that is they’ve been homeless for at least six months. Still, Kabalen said there are likely many others who haven’t been counted.
“There are more people who aren’t reaching out for help,” Kabalen said in an interview. “We can’t capture people we don’t know exist.”
As for the announcement about the tiny home community, Kabalen said he is waiting to learn more information about the project and if particular clients are being prioritized. He said some people currently on the by-name list are prioritized based on need. For example, those facing more barriers to getting housing may have access to housing with supports first.
Still, Kabalen said the tiny house project is a “necessary investment.”
“We may not need this 741 times. As we work through the need, we will need more tailored, customized solutions. Oftentimes what we may need is a 15-bedroom home, an older home that can be converted into permanent supportive housing, so people can live in a group environment,” Kabalen said.
“We look forward to hearing more about who is going to operate it so we can see what the supports will be made available there. This is likely needed in other communities across the province. Maybe not this big, but certainly this type of investment.”
‘Sixty-two people, that’s better than zero’
Cheryl MacIsaac is a program coordinator with Adsum for Women and Children. In an interview, MacIsaac said tiny homes for 62 people who are currently unhoused is a “dent” in the housing crisis.
“I think we’re looking at 1,000, 1100 people homeless in HRM that we know of, which, of course, doesn’t include all the folks who are invisibly homeless. It’s a small dent, however, every step is something to get people in from outside,” MacIsaac said. “Sixty-two people; that’s better than zero.”
MacIsaac said it was positive news that the tiny house project will be located on a bus route, near the Cobequid Community Health Centre, and will include wraparound services of its own. She said the project could potentially work for some people in need of housing, and tiny homes are better than tents.
“It won’t work for everybody. There are different strokes for different folks. Sometimes a community takes some work, takes leadership for it to work fairly well. I like the idea of wraparound services,” MacIsaac said. “As long as those services are in place, and names will come from the by-name list, folks we know who have been experiencing chronic homelessness, that makes sense. Every little bit counts.”
There is increasing interest in tiny home communities in other Atlantic Canadian cities and towns.
In April, Westville town council discussed creating a policy to permit tiny home communities being built in that town. In March this year, St. John’s, N.L. approved the development of a tiny home community on one city street to help with population density.
In Frederiction, the 12 Neighbours Community received $13 million in federal and provincial funding to built 60 tiny homes in that community, which currently has 36 tiny homes. Those homes are for previously unhoused people in the New Brunswick city.