ST. MARY’S – Thanks to its recent “leadership,” the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s now has access to a government pool of “billions of dollars” for Canadian communities determined to build affordable homes, says federal housing minister Sean Fraser.
Fraser, who also represents the area as Central Nova MP, told The Journal in an interview last week that the municipality’s recent land development committee initiatives — particularly its recommendation to construct a new affordable housing complex in Sherbrooke — makes it an ideal candidate for federal support.
“I’m very excited about it because [St. Mary’s] is a community that’s actually taking the leadership role and saying that it wants to get something done to house more people in its community. This is precisely the kind of thing that we hope more communities will put forward. We have literally tens-of-billions of dollars that are designed to help build more housing, including significant components of affordable housing in this country.”
Fraser, who was appointed Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities following a federal cabinet shuffle on July 26, added that St. Mary’s “should be applying for federal support” and that, “Our office would be happy to engage with them to give them the best direction as to how they can navigate the various programs.”
St. Mary’s council adopted all 14 recommendations and 10 ‘pathways to action’ of its land development committee report, fast-tracking the Sherbrooke housing complex and a community solar energy project in Trafalgar, in June.
The report also recommended that council “identify and foster suitable partnerships” with non-profit housing associations, including the Guysborough County Housing Network (GCHN), which had started the process of becoming a non-profit association.
“Affordable and available housing is not just about housing anymore,” GCHN co-chair Nancy O’Regan told The Journal at the time. “It’s about a whole lot of intersecting needs. We are seeing all those issues crossing in together… In St. Mary’s [for example], there are a large number of older houses containing older people. These homes are not necessarily suitable to them, but there’s not enough other housing available to them.”
Said Fraser last week: “It’s not too much to ask in a nation as wealthy as Canada [that] low-income families have a roof over their heads. At the same time, we have to recognize that there are an awful lot of people who have been thinking about moving to Nova Scotia, including rural Nova Scotia, who are moving into communities that don’t have the housing capacity required to help them.”
He added: “We know that the solution for downtown Toronto might not be the solution for Sherbrooke. And, by making this funding available directly at a community level, [we] reflect the opportunities that those communities present. This is going to allow us to get more houses built for the same amount of public money.”
Fraser noted that any federal funding for new affordable housing projects in St. Mary’s will be subject to a rigorous assessment and approval process, but, he said, “Contingent on them satisfying the eligibility criteria, this sounds like the kind of project and initiative that we should be working to support.”