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Houston Housing Havoc

Premier Tim Houston hasn't delivered on housing promises and doesn't seem prepared to do so.

When it comes to housing and healthcare in Nova Scotia, whether one is a student or not, the state of affairs continues to remain as it is — unfortunate.

On Sept. 7, the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party (NDP) issued a press release aimed at Progressive Conservative Tim Houston and his government for the lack of action concerning the current housing crisis. 

The release focuses on the government’s inaction amid the newly sparked school year.  Almost 38,500 students returned to classes this month, with only 4,198 designated student housing spaces. 

Every student in N.S. should have a place to call home that doesn’t break the bank

Calling the situation unacceptable, the NDP went on to declare that every student in N.S., whether they’re from other provinces or the next town over, should “Have a place to call home that doesn’t break the bank.” 

This is ironic if one focuses on the fact that students’ bank accounts are already broken and that they have been for some time.

The release went on to say Houston and his government have gone months past their self-imposed deadline for releasing a student housing strategy plan.

A plebeian’s reaction to a politician failing to meet a self-imposed deadline typically ranges from lethargic, if not apathetic, to smug self-righteousness. Because, after all, what politician doesn’t?

The plan was supposed to be released last spring. If one examines the 33 pages of intention the Houston government released on the housing crisis since August 2021, it seems the intended methodology the PC’s focused on was not exactly grounded, or well-bred. Actually, upon closer reflection, they might have been too well bred, to an excessive extent, if one gets the drift. 

In the 11-page report for a “Healthy Nova Scotia” Houston’s government released in October of 2021, the most compelling talking points are “Freeing up land for projects,” “Providing more tools for municipalities” and “Finding, attracting, and training more skilled tradespeople.”  

Not exactly concrete and articulate methodology to increase housing accessibility, save for freeing up land. 

What made the proposal somewhat more compelling, if not flat-out audacious, is the document’s claim that the province plans to double the population of N.S. by 2060. It might just be sensitive dispositions, but the talking point seems insensitive given the nature of the document. It is, after all, supposed to be a clear proposal of how the government is going to solve the housing crisis. 

A crisis that has arisen over the past decade because we continue to work the same wage labour jobs while the cost of living relentlessly increases. Meanwhile, Nova Scotians can’t find access to adequate healthcare

Meanwhile, Nova Scotians can’t find access to adequate healthcare. 

Maybe this combination of issues is where the gem in Houston’s solution of population increase lies. 

By increasing the number of physicians and trades folk who live and work in N.S., he may create a bustling economy of exceedingly healthy construction workers. These may, in turn, cultivate an exceedingly high number of residents, some of whom may be doctors. Who can know but Houston himself?

Houston’s October 2021 plan doesn’t set a good precedent. 

A year after releasing the “Healthy Nova Scotia” document, Houston’s Affordable Housing Commission released its 2022-2023 action plan. The 28-page document is more detailed than the first, with a thesis of increasing rental stock in HRM. Houston’s October 2021 plan doesn’t set a good precedent. It discusses a team devoted solely to increasing housing opportunities. 

“The mandate of the task force is clear. Act fast to increase the housing supply,” Houston said.

Nearly two years later, numbers aren’t looking any better and the much-anticipated strategies to further housing solutions have only been delayed, as the NDP was only too happy to point out. 

Perhaps self-conscious of the situation, Houston shifted blame by giving a stern talking to Halifax Regional Council members during a press conference earlier in the week. Houston encouraged them to “Roll their sleeves up” and “get to work”, on housing availability. 

Even with such heavy-handed governance, some of the students who have housing aren’t in suitable living conditions. All situations that could be fixed if there were more designated student housing spaces. But Houston’s too busy for that. 

It seems he is too preoccupied with pulling off the legislative two-fer of the decade – fixing the housing crisis and doubling N.S.’ population. For better or for worse, the effects of this grand plan have yet to take effect, if they ever do. 


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