The province is looking for your input on housing needs as it looks to address a Nova Scotia-wide affordability crisis.
The government has launched an online survey, open as of today, to “help identify gaps in current and projected housing requirements”—in other words, to find homes for a population reaching record highs amid a supply of housing about as scant as the chip aisle on the Friday before Hurricane Fiona.
According to the province, Nova Scotia’s population passed the million mark this past December, an 8.2% jump from 2016. That figure marks the second-highest leap of any Canadian province or territory, after the Yukon (12.1%)—albeit with a slightly longer window than the 2021 Census cutoff. The influx was even more pronounced in the Halifax Regional Municipality, which grew by nearly 37,000 residents from 2016 to 2021.
Meanwhile, the benchmark price of a Nova Scotia home reached $395,300 in August—up roughly 75% from 2016, per the Canadian Real Estate Association. In that same span, the average rental price of a one-bedroom Halifax apartment ballooned to $1,648/month, up from $989 in 2016—all while vacancy rates dropped from 2.6% in 2016 to 1% this year.
“While we know there's a housing problem in this province, the needs vary from place to place, person to person," municipal affairs and housing minister John Lohr said in a statement about the survey, the Nova Scotia Housing Needs Assessment. "To make good policy decisions, we need to hear directly from Nova Scotians about their experiences.”
Province pledges new builds, but timeline murky
Housing affordability has been a key issue dogging Tim Houston’s government. The premier pledged last October that his government “will not wait” to act on addressing the province’s housing crisis, and followed up with a plan to limit rent increases to 2% per year until December 2023, while spending close to $35 million to support new affordable housing units.
Lohr described the province’s housing situation in March as having “reached a critical point,” noting Halifax alone had a “housing deficit” of at least 17,000 units.
The province announced that same month that it had designated nine “special planning areas” within the HRM, streamlining development for up to 22,600 new homes—but it’s less clear when those homes are expected to be built. Construction on the last of those nine projects isn’t slated to start until 2024, and the province wasn’t forthcoming with any deadlines in its spring announcement.
Survey open until December
The survey—which asks Nova Scotians about their current housing situation, along with the most common challenges they face—is open until Dec. 4. The findings will be used to inform two new housing strategies: the Provincial Housing Strategy, along with the Student Housing Strategy.
The Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing says it will also hold a series of focus groups, workshops and stakeholder meetings to gather input on the province’s housing approach.