Last week I wrote a letter to the editor on the housing crisis in Nova Scotia. The day after the provincial election, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) moved to remove 40 occupants of tents and temporary shelters from public parks across the city.
The lack of affordable housing is a crisis in Nova Scotia.
The right to adequate housing is firmly entrenched in Canadian and international human rights law as well as in the HRM’s own policies. This right includes protection against eviction into homelessness. Despite Mayor Savage’s claims, several people have told reporters that they received no adequate offers of alternative accommodation prior to their eviction.
Mayor Savage says that all 40 evictions were needed to protect the health and safety of both occupants and the public. Public safety issues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
To do so is to victim blame those who are suffering most from the very housing crisis that those same politicians have failed to address.
Homelessness costs Canada $1.4 billion per year in emergency services, shelters, and criminal justice expenses.
The Mayor and Council must halt the evictions until they sit down with all stakeholders to draw up a housing transition plan.
We also call Premier-Designate Houston to prioritize building new affordable housing units and by funding new housing-first projects as we are heading into Fall/Winter.
Houston says his government will study whether rent control needs to be extended in the short term even after the state of emergency is lifted but he continues to believe the best answer is to increase the housing supply as quickly as possible.
He also says we need to fix the housing crisis and wants to move right to actual solutions. We agree and we want to know when.
Calling in the police to tear down temporary housing is not the answer and paints homeless people as criminals. So many have no choice when rents are so far out of reach without rent control.
We call upon the Mayor and Council to halt the evictions until they sit down with all stakeholders to draw up a housing transition plan that is lawful, orderly, and humane. We also call on the Premier-Designate Houston to act by building new affordable housing units and by funding new housing-first projects.
Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour