In late September, Halifax announced its plan to purchase a total of 73 modular units that would be used for temporary housing. Coincidentally, there are exactly the same number of units, with pale grey siding, creaky unlocked doors and basic wooden furniture, currently sitting at a Halifax construction site.
Mills Heavy Hauling in Goodwood is abuzz with the sound of giant machines processing junk. It moves up conveyor belts and is dumped into piles or crunched into bricks. Several half-ton trucks trail around the yard, hauling loads of scrap metal and wood back and forth.
But the modular units sit off to the side, seemingly untouched and surrounded by mud and tall grass. During The Coast’s visit there are 20 separate buildings lined up next to each other, most with three or four doors for separate “units” but some with only one or two. The condition of the buildings varies: some have visible weather wrap and blue tarps preventing leaks, while one is clearly quite damaged, with the siding fully ripped off exposing pink insulation and vertical two-by-fours underneath.
Most of the units are empty save for a desk and upturned mattress. Some have a small television set on a shelf, while others have cords dangling from the wall where one used to be. The doors to at least three units are ajar, emitting the pungent smell of black mould and opening to visible dark stains on floors, ceilings and walls.
Mills Heavy Hauling manager Alex Jenkins, when reached by phone, did not confirm or deny whether the units at his yard are the same ones being purchased by the municipality, but it’s hard to believe there are two identical sets of 73 modular units in HRM. City staff refused to speak about the units because an update about them is expected later today, November 9, at the regular meeting of Halifax Regional Council.
A source close to the city tells The Coast that staff only recently discovered the units they announced in September are not what was originally expected, and that repairs would cost a significant amount. According to Google Maps, it takes 14 minutes to drive from City Hall to Mills Hauling with the “usual traffic.”
An online advertisement at used equipment seller IronPlanet lists a “73 person mobile camp” located in Goodwood. The listing includes a damage report specifying at least 10 rooms “that would have to be gutted and redone,” and another eight rooms requiring slight repairs. “Two full sets of rooms have heavy water damage,” reads the report. The ad, with photos that look identical to the modular units currently sitting at Mills Hauling, dates back to 2019.
There are more than 80 photos attached to the ad, many of them clearly showing units that contain mould, have structural damage and would require more than just hooking up “water and sewage” as the city told us last month.
Again, the city refused to speak to The Coast about the modular units because they are supposed to be discussed at today’s council meeting. So the city hasn’t confirmed the 73 modular housing units advertised in Goodwood in 2019 are the same 73 units currently sitting in Goodwood, and it hasn’t confirmed that these are the 73 units announced in September. But, again, it’s hard to believe there are multiple sets of modular housing units sitting unoccupied in HRM.
Given the city’s silence, it’s unclear if or why HRM purchased the units sight unseen, why the modular unit plan was announced to the public before being confirmed or how long HRM has known the true condition of the units. But it is obvious no one will be moving into these particular modular units any time soon.