Sunday, 20 October 2019
featured Poverty

Letter: There is a housing crisis in the city and it is getting worse

In partnership with Welcome Housing, the Public Good Society of Dartmouth opened the doors to the Dartmouth Housing Helps (DHH) Office on Wyse Road five years ago in response to what we saw – a growing number of individuals and families struggling to find and keep an affordable place to live.

Since then, the office has helped hundreds of people in need. It is something we are immensely proud of, due in no small part to the compassionate and tireless work of our Housing Support Worker Darcy Gillis.

The office has also given us a front-row seat to the affordable housing situation over the past few years. Despite determined efforts from people like Darcy and others, the overall picture has gone from bad to worse. Supply has shrunk while demand has increased. Prices are growing much faster than incomes. Every month, more and more people in our community are unable to find a safe, affordable place to live.

Make no mistake, this is a crisis – an emergency situation where a failure to respond will result in devastating consequences for a growing number of people and the wider community. All three levels of government are responding – each working on promising strategies that will help in the longer-term – but those solutions aren’t moving as fast as the crisis is growing. With this in mind, the Public Good Society once again asked ourselves, what can we do?

Last winter a couple of us participated in a Social Innovation Lab on Affordable Housing in Dartmouth North, hosted by Between the Bridges. It brought a wide-variety of residents, non-profits, and government agencies working together for five days to dig into the topic and look for some local solutions to prototype.

For example we saw a need in Dartmouth North for emergency stabilizing housing. We even considered the purchase of a six to eight unit building where we could temporarily place place people and families who have not yet found somewhere to live. However, we found the complex web of legal, regulatory, and financial systems involved was overwhelming.

And the Public Good Society is not alone – we are one of many groups serving the community that see the crisis first-hand and want to contribute to a solution. So we recognized another need – to support other non-profit organizations that are willing to enter the affordable housing market.

That is why we applied to the provincial government for funding to embed a Housing Development Officer in the community who can provide hands-on support and navigation services for organizations who want to develop more affordable housing.

It feels to us like the severity of the crisis in housing is bigger than many realize, and it is growing. While all three levels of government are moving in the right direction, we urge them to do more, and faster. Community organizations also need support for short-term options and tools to help cope with the current challenges while we wait for longer-term solutions to take hold.

Doug Livingstone, Monique Mullins-Roberts, Robert Chisholm, Ralph MacKenzie, Grace Szucs, Matt Spurway,  Gavin McCombie, Victoria Murray, Bernie Swan, and Mario Rolle, board members of the Public Good Society of Dartmouth

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