Three non-profit housing organizations will receive funding to build over 50 new affordable housing units in Halifax under a federal affordable housing program.
Council voted on Tuesday to allocate $8 million to developments by Adsum for Women and Children, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, and the North End Community Health Centre (NECHC). The proposals were part of the municipality’s investment plan, to be submitted to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) before Nov. 27.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government’s plan to spend $1 billion to create 3,000 new affordable housing units across the country on Oct. 27. Council voted to accept $8.7 million of that to build a minimum of 28 affordable housing units in the region on Nov. 17.
“It is challenging, but for all the talk of housing and how long it takes to get housing built, the last thing we can complain about is getting it done quickly,” Mayor Mike Savage said during Tuesday’s meeting.
To be eligible for funding, organizations must use the money to buy land, build prefabricated housing, renovate an uninhabitable house or convert a non-residential building to a residential building.
The buildings need to be finished within one year and be occupied by March 2022 to receive funding. The organizations must also be able to keep the units affordable for 20 years and meet annual operating budgets and costs. If they fail to meet these conditions, the municipality will be responsible to return the money to CMHC.
Sheri Lecker, executive director of Adsum for Women and Children, said the tight deadline will be a challenge.
It’s not the first time Adsum has had to work quickly. A decade ago, the organization built a three-storey, 10-unit apartment building in 11 months, Lecker said.
“We purchased the land, tore down … built the buildings, got the occupancy permit within 11 months,” Lecker said. “That was incredibly fast. And that was without COVID.”
Adsum has proposed 25 units built on Adsum-owned property in Lakeside. The development will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with nine of those being accessible units.
Municipal planner Jillian MacLellan said during Tuesday’s meeting the non-profits should apply for 100 per cent municipal tax relief to help them meet operating budget and affordability requirements.
NECHC is trying to purchase a four unit building on Maitland Street, to renovate into a 10-bedroom house for African Nova Scotians experiencing chronic homelessness. The Friendship Centre has secured a site on College Street to build a 30-bed shelter, 10 single room occupancies and seven bachelor units.
Council is confident the approved developments can meet the deadline.
“We can’t fail,” said Lecker. “We as a community, cannot fail. Not on these and not on all the [developments] that aren’t going forward under this program but deserve attention and time and investment.”
The federal government may also provide funds directly to individual projects proposed by provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous governing bodies and organizations and non-profit organizations until Dec. 31, 2020.