DAASH takes housing concerns to Digby councils

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on April 24, 2014

One in five households in Digby County live in housing that needs repairs, is too small given the people living there, or is too expensive.

The Digby and Area Affordable and Supportive Housing Group has been working for the last year to get a clear picture of the housing situation here – this winter they began sharing what they’ve learned with municipal governments and asking for their help.

“This is a serious issue for many Digby County residents,” said Lisanne Turner of the Tri-County Women’s Centre to Digby town council on Tuesday, April 22. “We need your help to communicate the gaps in the system during advocacy days, in meetings, with our MLA’s, and push for provincial standards and a federal strategy.”

DAASH has also met with the Municipality of the District of Digby and the Municipality of the District of Clare; Digby mayor Ben Cleveland and municipal councilor David Tudor sit on the DAASH committee.

DAASH wants the councils to advocate for a federal housing strategy that provides long-term stable funding for affordable housing.

While Nova Scotia currently receives $55 million in federal funding for social housing, that is declining and will end completely in 2034.

DAASH is also asking the councils to work with Housing Nova Scotia to establish minimum provincial standards for all rental housing and to expand the role and resources of agencies enforcing the Residential Tenancies Act.

“A lot of people on fixed income are scared to speak up for themselves or complain,” said Turner. “They can’t just up and leave and they don’t have a lot of options. Often there’s a reason the rent is as cheap as it is.”

DAASH’s study found that 43 per cent of renters in Digby County are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing; and approximately 19 per cent of tenant households live in subsidized housing.

Among people who own their homes, there are still challenges to maintain those properties: 17 per cent of homes in Digby County are in need of major repair and 46 per cent are over 50 years old.

The Western Regional Housing Authority provides about 300 social housing units in Digby County and had a waiting list for 68 more as of July last year.

The DAASH stakeholders meeting found that although programs do exist, the public faces many barriers in accessing them—from lack of awareness of the existence of the programs and how to apply and then navigating through the right offices, forms and phone systems.

The next step for the committee is an application to the Homelessness Partnering Strategy for funding to get the application process mapped out.

“We’d like to see the process mapped out for people; just how do you get help with housing in Digby County,” said Turner. “The map would look at what are the steps to finding shelter, or getting a grant to fix your home, where are the gaps and what are the barriers, how do they navigate the system.”

Sidebar: Average monthly costs of housing someone who is homeless:

$1900 for a shelter bed

$4,300 for a provincial jail

$10,900 for a hospital bed

$700 for rental supplement

$200 social housing