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.
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.
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