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This should be housing: New interactive map to expose abundance of vacant buildings in Nova Scotia

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – With affordable housing at such a premium everywhere in Nova Scotia people are pointing at vacant lots and empty buildings in towns and cities all across Nova Scotia and wondering why we can’t do better.

Now there is an interactive mapping application, This should be housing, that exposes the extent of these opportunities. It’s the brainchild of lorax b. horne, a Halifax journalist and writer, who was inspired to build the interactive map after seeing the Halifax Mutual Aid’s This should be housing stickers.   

The map is interactive, so if you know about a vacant building that could be turned into affordable housing you can drop a pin yourself.

“I am tired of seeing community spaces like the Bloomfield Center (@imaginebloomfld)  pass from vibrant features of the landscape into disused vacants. The city then justifies selling off more real estate to private development, and washes their hands when we have nowhere to live,” Horne wrote on Twitter.

Bloomfield is indeed a great example of lost opportunities.

In 2012 the then NDP government proposed to acquire the old school on Agricola Street and create 191 affordable units. It didn’t last. In 2016 the new Liberal government ditched the idea and that was the last we heard of it. 

It wasn’t viable, we were told.

That may be true, but that was only so because the city insisted on treating the Bloomfield development as a commercial project like any other. The province was competing with several commercial developers and had to fork out $15 million just to get out of the starting block.

That $15 million was taxpayer’s money, to be paid to a city that operates on taxpayer’s money. One hand paying the other hand. It doesn’t make sense.

See also: Imagine Bloomfield: Lament for a great idea

As the map clearly shows, even at this early stage there are plenty more Bloomfields out there.

Shannon Park, the federally owned former military housing complex is one of them. Nova Scotia ACORN believes that now vacant land should be used for affordable housing rather than $1500/month condos.   

And yes, the new convention centre in downtown Halifax is already on the map, to a large extent empty and losing (our tax) money even at the best of times, let alone now during the pandemic. 

This is how This should be housing summarizes the case for converting the Nova Centre.

“The Nova Centre was built with hundreds of millions of dollars of public money – we even gave away a block of Grafton Street! And what did we get for that? We agreed that the city government would be liable for any losses on the project, which so far has been significant! It was a great deal for the developers. Now, in the midst of a housing crisis made immeasurably worse by politicians and rich developers, let’s take this building back! Huge sections remain empty – built with public money and rightfully to be used by the public.”

When I lived in Amsterdam in the seventies the lack of affordable housing caused people to occupy empty buildings there and elsewhere in the country. 

It was both a protest against real estate speculators who weren’t interested in providing housing, and a direct action born of necessity, because these people literally had no roof over their head.

That was at a different time, and in another country. The dutch “krakers” or squatters were successful because they had broad public support, and also because there were unintended legal protections that made eviction difficult once an occupied space was established as a home.

But with landlords chopping at the bit to increase rents by hundreds of dollars as soon as the Covid emergency is lifted, the need to keep pressing all levels of government to act rather than study and tread water is clear. In that context This should be housing is a wonderful tool to help keep the pressure up.

See also: Making housing a human right: Report issues 100 recommendations for a housing-secure Nova Scotia

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  1. My son lives in Bridgewater and needs affordable housing. He has a disability and lives on $800.00 a month. He also requires a building with no stairs or an elevator or street level entry. It’s just disgusting that on $800.00 a month he is expected to pay rent, heat, lights, food, internet. Something needs to be done.

  2. There are quite a few places along the Herring Cove Rd that could be purchased and renovated and used for low income housing. I know housing does this often, so I’m kind of baffled at why these places sit empty for years!

    House at 464 Herring cove (white one) HUGE yard. Could house a family of 6 I believe (I think it’s a 3 bedroom) it’s been vacant for more than 7 years. 412 Herring Cove Rd is an apartment complex that’s been also vacant for more than 9 years. If the property was cleaned up this could house at least 3 families!! As well as 204 Herring Cove Rd. (and right now it looks like it’s got tenants but it’s just storage for who ever owns it. The truck has been in the yard for at least 5 years and not moved!)

    I don’t know who owns these places, Hell I’ve looked into trying to see what’s wrong with the properties to see why they aren’t on the market so they aren’t sitting empty. I know my BF is always on the look out for a possible property buy that would help those in the community with affordable rents once the place is repaired. (I would do maintenance since this is my strong point) but to even find detailed info on some of these places is nearly impossible, let alone the asking prices if there are any.

    I think the city needs to come up with a new law where a property left vacant more than 5 years is deemed abandoned and then passed to housing so they can fix it and rent it out to families in need. (I know sounds mean/stupid…what ever adjective/adverb one would use) but something needs to be done. The vacancy rate is LESS then 1% with the rate of persons coming here is over 15% but the rate of empty units around the city exceed that. So if there was a means to meet demand there wouldn’t be so many people near homeless or on the streets in the first place.

    On top of this, people on Disability, IA (for single parents/or low income workers) or even single persons on assistance, their rent allotment NEEDS to be raised to meet the costs in this city!! There is NO ONE in this city willing to rent to ANYONE for less than $550 a month for a single person (for 1 room) where it includes everything (lights/hot water/ect) because the cost of that stuff has skyrocketed!

    Right now a single person gets $348 for rent. (boarding) – so unless they are sleeping on the floor, in the basement of someone’s home they wouldn’t even have the luxury of laundry, or phone, or lights for that matter because there’s not a single place even in the “ghetto” that nearly everyone deems Spryfield to be that’s under $800 a month. (and YES that’s for a 1 bedroom unit, without the lights!!)

    Government officials HAVE to make changes to that budget too. I learned back in 2013 that there was a “Voices heard” seminar for those on IA talking about the changes those on IA would like to see. Aside from the bus passes being offered to assist with MH issues, NOTHING else was EVER done with that info. It was scrapped. Because everyone said the same thing.

    We don’t like that we’re secluded, or singled out to go to Dr’s appointments. A bus pass would help mental health issues.
    We want better rental amounts so we don’t feel like we’re bums and living in crapholes.
    We want to be treated like people, not like 2nd class citizens because we’re old or broken.
    We want better medical, including dental. I can’t get a job when my teeth look like they’ve been burned out of my skull!
    We need child care! How can I work when I can’t even afford my rent? How in the world would I pay for child care too?
    The system is broken and meant to keep us down, not help! Fix IT!

    These people were not wrong. I would know, before I got a great government job, I was one of them. Something HAS to give.
    and it can’t be the people who live in this city, it has to be the government officials who run this city.
    They are doing a pretty crappy job of it when it comes to the working poor, middle class and seniors who make up most of the population. If a regular Joe ran things like they are now, we’d have all been fired 7 years ago!

    Rent Control is absolutely needed, AND more units for housing HAVE to be built. There are 73 families from other countries that were brought here under the liberal government who are STILL living in church basements with other families!! This is NOT right. There are families in housing who are over housed. (1 person in a 3 bedroom) because they do not have a new place to go to within the Housing municipality!!! (and there SHOULD be this availability) and they can’t afford the rental amounts here on disability AND to pay for food, medical and lights!

    ALL of this needs to be fixed. Personally I don’t think our city needs a new government official. It needs a mother who KNOWS how to juggle things and fix what’s not right so it moves smoothly!

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