GUYSBOROUGH – Nova Scotia does not have an effective governance structure in place for public housing and does not provide adequate oversight of regional housing authorities across the province, Auditor General Kim Adair says in a report released on 21st of June.
“It’s important that eligible Nova Scotians have access to social housing in a fair, consistent and timely manner that ensures existing social housing is used to its fullest potential,” Adair said.
The province’s social housing portfolio comprises over 11,000 units. As of December 31, 2021, there were nearly 6,000 applicants on the waiting list for housing, more than half the number of units in the province. Although there is an average wait time of around two years, some applicants may wait much longer for a unit, depending on location and size required.
The report found that regional housing authorities do not effectively manage the public housing application and tenant placement processes. Inconsistent and poor processes were identified throughout the audit period, which extended from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2020.
In response to the report, Guysborough-Tracadie MPP Greg Morrow issued the following statement to the Journal on June 24 via email: “The audit makes 20 recommendations, including the establishment of a governance structure efficiency and creating a fair and consistent public housing application process. and an accurate waiting list ranking system. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing agrees with the recommendations and is actively working on resolutions.
Nancy O’Regan, co-chair of the Guysborough County Housing Network, wrote of the report in an email to the Journal: “Nothing in the report surprises me. The approach of the regional authorities does not seem to work as well as expected. Some of the Auditor General’s recommendations really resonate with me. Often, tenants who are struggling to obtain and maintain adequate housing need comprehensive supports, including health, mental health, addictions and other services. New policies are needed, but a process of regularly reviewing and updating policies would help. »
O’Regan continued: ‘What has not been examined in this audit is the physical condition of social housing in Guysborough. During our recent consultations on community housing, we heard concerns about aging properties that are not being adequately renovated. This speaks to the need to increase budgets for both upgrading and regular maintenance.
“I hope that the study on needs and demands launched recently [by] the province…will address the need to increase social housing in rural areas that are undeserved, especially African Nova Scotian communities in Guysborough County,” O’Regan concluded.
A press release issued by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing on June 21 stated, “As government, we owe it to all Nova Scotians to ensure that we manage our social housing effectively and efficiently. Although the issues did not develop overnight and we know there is much to improve, we are taking immediate action to make things better. We agree with the findings of the Auditor General’s report on the oversight and management of Crown-owned public housing and accept all of the recommendations.
“We have already made progress in some of the areas highlighted and are working on plans to modernize operations so that we can help more people and families… We have also taken steps to reduce our waiting lists and reduce the turnaround time of vacant units, as well as putting in place measures to confirm the eligibility of people waiting for our units. We are working to improve problem solving for residents.
The Auditor General’s report can be viewed online at https://www.oag-ns.ca.
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal