June 6th, 2024

Houston government must protect Nova Scotians from risk of homelessness

HALIFAX –Nearly three years after Tim Houston’s government was elected, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Halifax alone has more than tripled. Nova Scotia New Democrats are calling for immediate action to prevent this crisis from getting even worse.

Tuesday, Halifax Regional Council voted to approve recommendations to address this issue, including asking the Premier for help.

“In this current moment, the Houston government must do better and focus on keeping people housed. The Premier needs to treat homelessness like the emergency it is and do whatever is necessary to help those living rough,” said NSNDP leader Claudia Chender. “Nova Scotians can’t wait any longer. We need real, immediate solutions and investment. The Houston government should change the requirements for the rent supplement program back to 30 per cent from the 50 per cent level they changed it to last year and create a renters’ tax credit to help people afford the skyrocketing rents in Nova Scotia.”

Dawn Bishop, a single mother from Dartmouth North, works full-time but is still struggling to make ends meet. Despite spending more than half her take-home income on rent, she doesn’t currently qualify for the rent supplement program.

“I couldn’t believe it when they said I wasn’t eligible for a rent supplement. How can you base eligibility on gross income that you don't see in your pocket? That is an imaginary number. I’m no mathematician, but when I look at what lands in my bank account and it takes an entire paycheck plus half of the other one to just pay the rent, something’s not right,” said Bishop. “I feel cornered and that's not a good feeling when you’ve exhausted every resource available to only continue to be in the same situation month after month. I did everything I was supposed to do, I went to college, I work a full-time job, and I still can’t afford the rent, bills, and food for me and my son.”

The NSNDP continues to call on the Houston government to bring in real rent control, stronger renter protections and tenancy enforcement, and expand the rent supplement to ensure people remain housed.

“They also need to take swift action to provide housing and resources to people who are currently experiencing homelessness. We need to do whatever it takes to help all Nova Scotians keep a roof over their head,” said NSNDP Housing spokesperson Suzy Hansen. “The province is dragging its feet on building housing that people can actually afford, and we can see the effects as homelessness continues to increase.”

According to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, there were 1,257 people actively homeless in Halifax as of May 28, 2024. That number was under 400 when the Houston government was elected in August 2021.