Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New Housing for Healthcare homes set for completion in December

Similar project officially confirmed for Canso in 2025

  • April 24 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH — The Housing Trust of Nova Scotia (HTNS) is sharpening its scissors for a December ribbon-cutting on eight affordable, townhouse-style rental homes it will construct this fall at Cutler’s Brook Estates in Guysborough.

HTNS Executive Director Angela Bishop made the announcement at a meeting with Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Shawn Andrews and Guysborough Memorial Hospital Site Lead and Health Services Manager Michelle Myers on Apr. 16.

“We’re going to be moving pretty quick,” Bishop told The Journal in an interview about the project the HTNS is administering under the province’s Housing for Healthcare Initiative. “We like to use the word target. We can’t control everything. But, yes, we should have the units open in Guysborough this year.”

As well, plans have firmed up for a similarly sized HTNS project of eight units on Wilmot Street in Canso, now slated for 2025.

“That wasn’t definitive two months ago,” she said. “But, it is now.”

According to the MODG’s Andrews, who also spoke to The Journal last week, “It’s great to see that, hopefully by Christmastime, the homes will be available and open in the Guysborough area, and that, hopefully, in 2025, the Canso units will be available and up and running ... Since day one, we have been extremely pleased with the progress of this file and with having the ability to move it forward ... to get housing for healthcare workers in our area to anchor our hospitals and nursing homes ... to have [affordable] housing as a recruitment tool.”

In 2023, the provincial government authorized the HTNS to administer its $20 million Housing for Healthcare Initiative, designed to provide modern, affordable housing for healthcare professionals, especially in communities outside Halifax Regional Municipality, where worker recruitment and retention has been challenging. The first project completed that year was a Lunenburg motel conversion into apartments and townhouses suitable for families at a cost of nearly $5 million.

Last October, MODG transferred two parcels at Cutler’s Brook Estates – a subdivision close to Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy, Guysborough Memorial Hospital, Milford Haven Home for Special Care, recreation facilities, and shopping; featuring a public green space and wastewater system – and the Wilmot Street property in Canso for $1 apiece (with an approximate, combined market value of approximately $100,000) to the HTNS.

At the time, Bishop told The Journal the plan envisioned erecting modular homes – each costing “a ballpark $300,000” to build – in “little clusters that fit well into the community. It’s likely going to be townhouses. We’re very much focussed on creating long-term, permanent housing that people would be happy to make their home.”

Megan Mariano, HTNS project manager, told The Journal last week that this plan is on track.

“[A resident] would be getting a 16-by-36-foot, two-storey townhouse [with] two bedrooms, one-and-a half-bathrooms and upgraded finishes,” she said. “We’re holding these units long-term and it’s in our best interest to ensure that we are providing a good quality, durable product.”

As for who may live there, the project employs a mixed-income model. According to the briefing note on the meeting with the HTNS prepared by MODG Development Officer Deborah Torrey for council last week, “The homes are for fulltime healthcare workers, which includes anyone of the healthcare field – such as nurses, doctors, admin personnel, kitchen or cleaning staff, LPNs, (licensed practical nurse), CCA’s (continuing care assistant), etc.”

Added Bishop last week: “[Though] they are designated for healthcare workers, the only requirement for us I suppose is that they are rented. So, we wouldn’t hold a unit vacant for six months waiting for a healthcare worker. We would look for another skilled worker.”

Constructed offsite, units are expected to arrive this fall.

“Then, it will be a matter of ensuring that skilled workers can be mobilized to get the units ready for occupancy,” she said. “There’s still some work that needs to be done once the units show up on the site ... but, if the workers are accessible, then it can take just a couple of weeks to get a unit up and running.”