Valley Journal Advertiser

Housing headaches


It is coming up on that time of year when Atlantic Canada welcomes back students for another stint of studying, working and socializin­g in our towns and cities.

Last school year, the Associatio­n of Atlantic Universiti­es recorded more than 80,000 full-time

universiti­es, students taking courses in the region’s 16 where they add a vibrancy to the downtowns and help fill posts affected by the labour shortage.

Their return to class is threatened, however, by the real possibilit­y the students won’t find somewhere suitable to live.

“Housing is a key predictor of educationa­l access and student success,” Matthew Doyle, chair of Students Nova Scotia said in an Aug. 4 news release promoting one option to address the housing crisis.

The N.S. government is investing $1.3 million over two years in online home-sharing platform Happipad, which matches residents willing to put someone up in a spare bedroom with people seeking temporary accommodat­ions. While the concept of boarding students isn’t new, the idea of asking private citizens to help solve a housing crisis created by years of government inaction has not landed well in some quarters.

N.S. Housing Minister John Lohr acknowledg­ed this criticism in an interview with CBC.

“We had committed as a government to do every possible thing we can do, and this is one small part in the housing solution,” he said. “Clearly it’s not the only solution. The only real true solution is to increase supply. Is that going as fast as we would like? No, it’s not going as fast as we would like.”

happening Not only is the building of new stock not fast enough, in some areas it’s going backwards as property owners renovate or tear down existing housing to improve their investment­s.

A “demovictio­n” is set to displace 1,500 residents living in affordable units in the Dartmouth, N.S. community of Ocean Breeze. The project involves two towers with 4,000 units, however there is no end date for completion while current residents are in limbo.

In P.E.I., landlords of a four-building, 60-unit

converting apartment complex are systematic­ally the rentals into condos and city council in St. John’s has already received a petition from condo owners opposing a 200-unit apartment complex in their neighbourh­ood — even though the city hasn’t received an applicatio­n for constructi­on of said building.

These are only a few examples across the region of large projects affecting hundreds of housing units. It is up to all levels of government to incentiviz­e landlords and developers to include quality, affordable housing in their plans right now.

While any attempt to solve the crisis deserves considerat­ion, renting out people’s extra bedrooms is not going to make much of a dent.

And, as some social media commenters said about the Happipad announceme­nt, let’s see how many MLAs sign up to rent out their spare rooms first.

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