MR. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon, I would like to welcome all members to the Standing Committee on Community Services. Maybe for the record we could go around the table and introduce ourselves and maybe mention who we are substituting for.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Maybe we could have the presenters introduce themselves, too, to the committee.
MR. GRANT WANZEL: I am President of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia.
MS. PATRICIA RICHARDS: I am with Community Action on Homelessness.
MS. LOUISE VANWART: I did my Masters thesis on affordable housing at Dalhousie.
MS. KATHERINE REED: I work at the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre and have a little housing committee going now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Maybe at this time we can go right in and hear from the presenters and whoever is going first can.
MS. LOUISE VANWART: I am Louise VanWart and I am here to just give you a brief overview of my Masters thesis on urban and rural planning. I studied the affordable housing
issues in six communities in Nova Scotia. Conservatively speaking, my research shows that between 9 per cent and 22 per cent of census families in these communities that I studied live in unaffordable or inappropriate housing. There is not enough subsidized housing for low income families in any of the communities that I studied and tenant and single-parent families really stand out as suffering the most.
Some interesting things that came out of the thesis were the differences in the housing affordability situation in each of the communities. Take CBRM and Yarmouth, for example, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Yarmouth. They are both communities that have suffered from years of economic decline but this graph here shows - they are labelled hill families but they are in fact low income families - how both of these communities have a pretty high proportion of low income families. In CBRM between 24 per cent and 42 per cent of families are low income families and in Yarmouth about half of census families earn under $30,000 a year.
Housing supply in these communities is not an issue, there are high rental vacancy rates, but housing quality is. Landlords and homeowners are having difficulty affording repairs and maintenance. Also what is happening is families are doubling up or living in housing that is too small in order to afford housing. Although the rents are comparatively low, still I found that there are tenant families that have affordability issues. Over half of the tenant families in both of these communities live in unaffordable housing.
So in addressing the problem in these communities, economic development would be a critical approach, but what is interesting is going beyond that to look at the housing assistance. The focus would be different. In CBRM, we found that there is a high proportion of home ownership; 73 per cent of the dwellings in CBRM are owned and only about 19 per cent of families are tenant families. So in CBRM the focus of assistance would have to look at home ownership and helping people to stay in their homes, and in Yarmouth the focus would be more on renting families as about half of the families in Yarmouth are renting families.
So looking at another two communities that I studied, Antigonish and Kentville, in these communities, unlike CBRM, housing stock is in critical need. Both Antigonish and Kentville face a situation where they have limited developable land and this puts pressure on the housing market and has driven up housing costs. In Antigonish the situation with the students from St. Francis Xavier University has put additional pressure on the rental market. In fact, in 1999, CMHC recorded the vacancy rate at zero and the rents in Antigonish are similar to Halifax, which has the highest rents in the province.
So in this community what really stood out was the high proportion of family income that is going to pay for housing. In Antigonish, if you look at the average single parent tenant income which is about $13,500 a year, a family earning this pays, on average 64 per cent of their income to rent and that leaves very little left over for other essentials. In Kentville, looking at the single minimum wage earner, that family would pay about 47 per cent of their income, on average, to rent. What stood out in this community as well was the fact that single parents seem to be really suffering. In both communities about 80 per cent of single parent tenant families live in unaffordable housing.
Another difference across the province was in the amount of affordable housing, amount of subsidized housing that is available. What this graph does is look at a conservative estimate of low income families. So it looked at all the families that earn under $20,000 a year and then it looked at the approximate number of subsidized housing units and then how many, so then based on that, looked at how many of these families could live in subsidized housing. In Yarmouth, at the most, half of these families could live in subsidized housing. Truro, on the other hand, is in a pretty desperate situation. There are very few subsidized housing units in Truro so probably about 96 per cent or 97 per cent of the low income families live in the rental market.
Then finally just to touch on Halifax, which was the sixth community that I studied, as we all know, Halifax's rents are the highest in the province and really the low income families bear the brunt of Halifax's expensive and tight housing market. Rental housing is expensive and difficult to find and on average low income families pay between 40 per cent and 70 per cent of their income on rental housing. What also happens in Halifax is low income families are forced into outlying areas to find housing, areas like Dartmouth or Spryfield, where the rents are cheaper and the vacancy rates are higher. This compounds the issues that they face because if they are not able to afford a car, they have to rely on public transit. In many cases public transit isn't very accessible in those areas.
My thesis kind of pulled out four implications for program policy and program implications. The first is that the subsidized housing that is out there now is helping and it needs to be maintained. An interesting example is to look at Yarmouth and CBRM. Both are in declining economies, and in Yarmouth as many as half of the families can live in affordable housing; whereas in CBRM about 20 per cent of families are able to live in affordable housing. What we see in Yarmouth, there are fewer tenant families living in unaffordable housing than in CBRM so it kind of indicates that subsidized housing is helping.
We need to broaden the scope of housing policy. The current provincial housing policy proposes to address the housing needs of Nova Scotians within existing affordable housing stock. As you can see from this graph, existing affordable housing stock isn't meeting existing needs so it is hard to think that it will meet future needs. A flexible housing policy is needed to reflect the differences that I have just talked about across the province in the housing policy.
Finally, housing can't be dealt with in isolation. We need to consider economic policy as well as social policy. Truro is an interesting example of that. In Truro the economy is
relatively good, yet the statistics in Truro for the number of low income families and the number of families that live in unaffordable housing is similar to a place like Sydney where the economy is poor. It really indicates that it is not just a strong economy that we need, it is a social policy as well. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is it the wish of the committee to ask questions now or maybe we should . . .
MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: I would wait for the presentations.
MR. CHAIRMAN: All right then. Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
MS. PATRICIA RICHARDS: My name is Patricia Richards and I am here today representing the Community Action on Homelessness. The Community Action on Homelessness is a group of people who have come together to address this issue in our community. We are about 15 people and we represent people from the agencies who are directly involved in homelessness; that means people who provide housing for homeless people. We also have represented as resources on our committee, members of all three levels of government. So we have representatives from the federal government, Human Resources Development Canada and CMHC; from the provincial government, the Department of Community Services and Housing; and we also have a representative now from HRM, the Halifax Regional Municipality.
We are indeed a group of people who have partnered together to address this very serious concern in our community and we have been meeting now for more than a year to look at this issue. As you probably know, and I hope you know, the Halifax Regional Municipality has been designated as one of the most affected communities in terms of homelessness; we are 1 of 10. The issue is clear, we have a problem.
My particular interest is, I am here because I am the coordinator of that steering committee, as we are called. I have been in this position since July. Therefore, what had to be done because we were designated as one of the most affected communities, we had to do a community action plan; I think you have copies of that community action plan, this document, which was done as part of a process. It was seen to be important and it was also done so we could access some money.
You probably know that there was money available or there is money available through the federal government, through Human Resources Development Canada, particularly through the minister responsible for homelessness, the Honourable Claudette Bradshaw. So some of that money was made available to this area and it was approximately in the amount of $6 million for three years.
So we had to do a community action plan. We had to look at the issue in terms of the priorities, in terms of the gaps and in terms of the recommendations. Most of the information that
we received came as a result of a workshop that was held last year around this time, February 19th. That information brought together as much information as we possibly could on the issue of homelessness in our community and then we worked through those issues.
We identified five priority areas in this community where homelessness was most affected and that was homelessness affecting women and children; homelessness affecting youth, young people between the ages of 16 and 24; homelessness affecting people with multiple needs, that is people with a variety of needs and issues which might include mental health issues, any kind of legal issues, all kinds of those variety of things that we see in terms of identifying some of the issues that homeless people are affected by.
The two other priority areas were more general. They were housing facilities, physical facilities, and the last one was policy and research because of the lack of that and some of the things that Louise mentions directly affect that. Most of the people who came together realize that we do not have a national housing policy and so we do not have a national housing policy on homelessness. We don't have housing policies directly related to homelessness at the municipal or the provincial level either. So that was seen as a way to address that.
After we prepared this community action plan and we all kind of came together and tried to figure out how this issue could be looked at very seriously - and it is, indeed, serious - and what does it mean to be homeless in this community, the action plan identifies homelessness as very broad in that it is not just people living on the street, it is people living in shelters and people at risk of being homeless, people living in substandard housing. So that is the full range of homelessness that this community action plan tries to address.
After we prepared the community action plan, true to form it had to go to the minister for approval and Minister Bradshaw approved that in October of last year; we were one of the first communities in Canada to get ours approved, 1 of the first 10. At that point we were able to start accessing the funding. The way we did it was we put an ad in the paper and we sent out information to all the community groups and agencies to ask them for expressions of interest. How do you think you could look at these target areas and identify some projects or a project, by way of an expression of interest to come forward to us to look at how we could respond to the issue of homelessness?
Thirty-two expressions of interest came forward and we - the steering committee, along with the government resources that we had - went through those piece by piece to see how we could best look at those projects and access that funding quickly. We are now into March and we have just about completed that process by identifying the number of projects. I wish today I could tell you all of those projects but some of them are just completing. What I can tell you is we are going to be assisting with funding for a project that will assist people with multiple needs. That project will be announced on March 12th and that is for about 16 people.
We are also going to be assisting with some of the cost of looking at a youth shelter, a facility for young people in this city. We are going to be looking at some small projects in terms of looking at renovating existing facilities. One of them is in Dartmouth and one is in Halifax.
We are just trying to assist with some renovations that are required. We are looking at some programs and services that are needed in this community. We would like to announce that probably in another month.
At that point, a good piece of the $6 million will have been spent and, of course, the big issue for all of them is the issue of sustainability. How do we, in our communities, with all of our partnership arrangements, look at these facilities in a way that we can sustain them and then how can we provide for better, more effective ways to look at homelessness?
Most of the money that is being spent, of course, is for what we would call emergency kinds of housing facilities. You know a shelter is not a home. It is a place where someone can live for a short period of time to look after their needs but it is not a home. It is not an address. So a person who lives in a shelter does not have an address and does not have a place to go to call home. We know for the short term that that may be a necessary part of our communities but it is not necessarily what we would like to see in the long term.
The community action plan on homelessness identifies that the issues of affordability are what we would like to see in the long term. The unfortunate part is the money - and the money you might know of as SCPI, Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative. That is what the federal government called that money and that SCPI money - could not be used for affordable housing. It was identified to be used to look at issues of homelessness. So in some ways we knew that when we were getting into this kind of a program. Therefore, the housing facilities that we will be able to provide under this program are for supportive kind of housing, housing that has support built into that, albeit some kind of a youth facility or a housing facility that looks after people with multiple needs. There will be support within that housing.
So that is where we are as of March. We have to spend all of the money by March 31, 2003 and what we want to know is what happens next. Where are we going with this? How can we make sure that everyone understands this issue in a very complex way and how can we look at this issue as we continue along? We know there are very serious concerns in our community in terms of substandard housing. People are living in rooming houses that are not safe and secure and not even really very affordable. We know people are living in all kinds of arrangements that I am sure you are going to hear from our other presenters that are not what we would call integrating people back into our communities as we would like to see.
So I guess in terms of the broad issues, all of the people on the steering committee are trying to understand the issue in a broad way. We would like to do more public awareness, but most of all the people who are working in the agencies have so much difficulty trying to work with the issue and also trying to provide funding, trying to keep going with this. I can tell you from the people I talk to every day, it is a difficult one. I hope you will understand it just a little bit more and certainly anything that we can do to provide you with more information, we would be pleased to do that.
Thank you for inviting me here today. I should tell you that I am an urban planner and that in my previous life I was a planner with the City of Dartmouth when Jerry Pye was a
councillor there and I have been very interested in the issues of livability, and livability means quality of life. I guess that is really what we are looking at here. That is the question: what kind of quality of life do we want for our communities in this province and indeed in Halifax? Thank you.
MS. KATHERINE REED: Good afternoon. I am Katherine Reed from the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre and thank you, as well, for inviting me to present. I have brought with me Kim MacKinnon down at the end of the room who is a member of the housing committee that we have working in Antigonish to address the need for affordable housing, which is well documented today thanks to Louise, Grant Wanzel and Orenda Davis, and to the Antigonish Women's Association who did this study. The survey was conducted in 1990-91, in the winter.
I won't get bogged down in reading you reams of data, but I will just pick out one or two of the significant findings here. In Antigonish 67 per cent of women with children living in regular market rental housing said they did not have enough money for proper meals, 83 per cent said they did not have enough money for medical costs and 83 per cent said they did not have enough money for clothing; 82 per cent of women in Antigonish and 62 per cent of men in regular market rental housing were paying, then, more than 30 per cent of their take-home pay; so the majority of them, especially the majority of the women, who tend to have lower incomes.
At the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre, we have been well acquainted, since I started working there in September 1983, with the affordability issues and the suitability issues that women face with housing. We frequently today, as we did 12 years ago, have women phoning and dropping in and saying, can you help me find some housing I can afford that I would want to live in, that is good enough for my kids and me to live in or that is good enough for me to live in alone and we say, no, we can't but we will help you find something; we won't help you find something that is affordable and suitable because it is not there and it hasn't been there for a long time, obviously.
Part of the work the women's centre does is advocating for women like that, trying to make sure that they are getting as much money from all of the various sources of income that they have and trying to just connect them to other people in the community who might be able to support them, including charities. There has been more and more of a role for charities in the communities right now and they are not always that helpful, sometimes. That is part of our role, but the other part of our role is to do community development work using the issues that women bring to the centre every day to start what they identify as the issues and then we try to elevate them to the status of community development issues, which is where Kim and I end up working on the Affordable Housing Association.
I would just like to make the point today that doing that affording housing development work, doing the organizational development work ahead of the actual developing of the housing is time-consuming, complicated, a long process. The women's centre is funded through donations and through the Department of Community Services but we are not funded to do that
work. So what we do is on the weekend, I do some of the paperwork and some of the phone calls and some of the other work that I normally would get paid to do during my 30 hour work week at the women's centre and while I am in the women's centre Tuesday to Friday, I do affordable housing work and go to meetings in the evenings.
I am not telling you that so you will feel sorry for me. I am just telling you because that is the way we are trying to piece together this work on a shoestring budget in an understaffed organization and while we are meeting this incredible demand, which we can't meet because we don't run housing, we don't offer housing and it is not there.
We need support in order to do that and I have just submitted a proposal to Tom Moore in New Glasgow for support for me to just spend all of my time working on housing development with this organization that I have running right now. I just submitted that the other day. So we can't do it without help.
The other thing that I wanted to bring today is I moved a woman from one residence to another about two weeks ago and she was in the other day and I said, you know I am going to Halifax to talk to the politicians about this housing issue and since you have had a particular problem, I wonder if I could bring your story and she said, oh, sure, by all means. So I said, well, I won't use your name or tell them anything about you, you know. She said, oh, no, you go ahead, that is fine. Her name is Margie.
She called upon me - she drops in sometimes - one day and said, can you drive me home to the motel that I found to live in temporarily? I just need to pick up my stuff and move to this other place. I got an apartment. So I said, yes, well, I suppose I could do that. It is only a small car but we can manage that. She said, well it is just a few bags of groceries and my clothes and stuff and a vacuum cleaner. Okay, so we go up to the old motel at the outskirts of town, which, you know, smells like cigarette smoke and booze from 25 years ago and is really not a very nice place to live. She has been there for about two weeks, since she first came to the women's centre saying I have no place to stay tonight, can you help? We managed to get a local charity to put her up in this motel and she ended up there for a couple of weeks.
So now she has gotten back on social assistance and she has moved now into this new place. So I go up and help her take this stuff in grocery bags and garbage bags down to the new place and the place is a rat hole. It is like 25 year old dirty carpeting, no windows to speak of. It is a slum. She is living in a slum.
I thought, now, what is this going to cost us? What is this going to cost you and me, as taxpayers, and what is it going to cost Margie and what does it cost us, generally, to leave people in the lurch like that? Part of the problem is she is not getting enough money from social assistance to provide for housing and the other part of the problem is there is no affordable housing.
There has been a lot of talk from government about self-sufficiency, independence, moving women toward blah, blah, blah. Well, that is all well and good but Margie is about my age but you would probably guess she is about 10 years older than me. She has physical and intellectual limitations. She comes from a very disrupted family and she has had an extremely hard life, much harder than most of us have ever seen. So it is not likely, frankly, that she is going to be getting her Masters degree any time soon. It is probably too late for that anyway.
If she ever does get work, which is extremely unlikely because she has all these problems, she is probably going to be working for minimum wage which means she will not get enough hours to make up a full week. She will be back and forth on social assistance, but even her getting a job is very unlikely. So is her dependence on social services a bad thing? I don't think so. Is her affordable housing situation her own problem? I don't think so. I think it is our problem.
I just wanted to spend a minute on how much it is going to cost us to keep Margie in that apartment. First of all it is going to cost us the social assistance which she will rely on in any case, regardless of her housing situation, but she is going to be trotting back and forth to her physician, I would imagine, because she is sleeping six inches away from a mouldy, 25 year old dirty carpet and when she goes to her physician, she will say I am having these symptoms. The physician won't say, are you sleeping close to a mouldy, dirty carpet? The physician will say, here is a prescription. She will go to the drugstore and spend some more of our money, and she will have to spend some of hers, too, unfortunately. It will probably come out of her food budget. She will pay the $5.00 co-pay out of her food budget, I would imagine because there is no money for clothing, because the money for clothing has to go for food because there is not enough money for food. That is Margie's life.
She will then have all kinds of problems with her neighbours because she lives in a ghetto. So she is going to have hookers, pushers and people who have been involved with the law quite a bit because they are the people who find it easiest to secure housing in places where the bad landlords are. So she is going to be exposed to all kinds of very unsavoury people and she is going to have some very negative experiences.
She will probably identify with that group of people because she doesn't fit in anywhere else. She doesn't live in the neighbourhood I live in. She doesn't travel in the circles that you and I travel in. She just might, some day, if she had decent housing and lived in a good neighbourhood. So as long as she lives in affordable housing she is going to have a number of very bad social problems.
She is also going to probably attach herself to people who create more problems for her which is going to send her off to see her doctor again or perhaps the psychologist who then will put her on more drugs and then she will have drugs on top of drugs masking symptoms. The drugs are not going to address the problem. She is depressed. Well, I would be depressed too if I lived in a place that only had a window about that size in the living room/bedroom and no window in the kitchen and no window in the front door. The place is dark year-round. She will
be exposed to all kinds of environmental - dirt mostly and she will live in extreme temperatures in the summertime because it is an old building that is poorly insulated.
I don't know if she is paying the heat in that building but I know that any time I rented unaffordable housing in Antigonish back when I was a single mom, most of my heating dollar went through the roof because the landlords didn't really care about how well insulated the place was. When you move in they say, oh yeah, it is great for heat. You won't have to pay much for heat and then you get your power bill and it is $350 for the last two months. Then you go to the charity who says, what did you spend all your money on, for God's sake? Don't you know how to turn the thermostat down when you go to bed? Yes, I do.
These are the kinds of things that happen to people who live in situations like that. As long as we keep Margie in housing like she is living in, she is going to be poorer, she is going to be unhappier and she is going to be unhealthy and if we don't address that problem, then we are all going to pay for that and she is going to pay for it too. So that is my main point that not addressing the problem creates more costs and more problems.
In order to address the problem - I know there is an expectation now on the part of government that community organizations and volunteers will address the needs of the community - definitely there is a role for people like me, and Kim and others to address the issues that we know best in the ways that we know are appropriate for us, but we can't do it without support. There is a real expectation I think, especially I find at the women's centre, on the part of government and other organizations that we will sort of sit on committees, organize things, type the minutes and do all that stuff and there is not enough time to do that; there is not enough staff to do it.
We really need to have someone full-time, right now, working on this project that we have going because if nobody is there to make the phone calls, circulate the information, talk to the bankers, the lawyers and people like that and keep the whole thing glued together, it is liable to lose its momentum pretty quickly and fall apart. That leaves people in the position of not knowing what to do, rather than having a group that knows what to do and how to do it, working on it. Thank you, that is my main point. I hope I didn't run overtime.
MR. GRANT WANZEL: My name is Grant Wanzel. I am President of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia. I am taking a few moments out from my real full-time job as a teacher at the university in the faculty of architecture. I want to thank the members of the committee for inviting myself and my colleagues to attend this session. It's a wonderful opportunity to speak with you and I hope by doing so that we are able to shed some light on what I think for many and most of us is a very complicated and often baffling problem.
The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia was founded in 1989 and it had a reasonable membership in 1989, which has dwindled very slowly ever since that time. We represent housing advocates, researchers, housing managers, and other persons and organizations interested in the issues of affordable housing across the province.
I provided you with two documents, one is a fairly extensive and detailed 15 or 16 page document with lots of tables, charts and statistics. I am not going to ask you to read it and I am not going to present it. Hopefully, you will have an opportunity to look at it at your leisure. I have also provided you with what I call the N.S. Housing Fact Update. It is hot off the press and contains some quite recent information. It provides something of an overview of the larger document. It doesn't address all of the issues, it isn't nearly as complete, but it does hit some of the high points.
We originally prepared the document - and I should give some credit to our provincial government - through the summer of 2000 Co-op Student Employment Program, that we were able to employ a graduate student to work with me last summer and to actually prepare this document. We prepared it, as we have done, every three, four or five years, really just trying to figure out where we are, what we should be doing, what issues we should be bringing forward, what kinds of things we should be saying. This time we decided to focus on the situation, trying to identify what needs to be done in the province, rather than trying to address the issue of how to do it. We are not there yet but we can at least share with you some of the material evidence that we have developed.
It was our intention in preparing this document to try to examine the full extent of housing need in the province, to identify its impacts on particular users and locations, to locate our housing needs as a province within the province, within the region, as well as at the national level. What we found - and in this, I agree with an important report developed by the Nova Scotia Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs in 1998 - is that most Nova Scotians are well served by the housing industry, by mortgage lenders, by homebuilders, by private sector developers, housing managers and rental agents. Nonetheless, despite our general state of well-being in the province, our research shows that since 1991, housing poverty has grown rapidly in Nova Scotia, that the gap between the housing rich and the housing poor in Nova Scotia has widened considerably, and that relative to other provinces - even within the Atlantic Region - Nova Scotia is falling far behind and rather quickly at that.
Just by way of quickly illustrating those three points, I will point out to you that in 1991, approximately 51,000 households in Nova Scotia were said by CMHC to be in core need. By 1996, that number had risen to 58,000 households. Between 1991 and 1996, tenant core need - that is the number of tenants in rental accommodation who were said to be in core need by CMHC - had increased by 73 per cent in Nova Scotia, by far the highest rate of increase of any province in Canada, which as a whole had a rate of increase of 36 per cent.
In 1996, the average income of a tenant household in core need in Nova Scotia was $11,700, just $100 more than the lowest-ranked Quebec. In 1996 - I am going to skip over a few of these things - Nova Scotia tenants in core need at 50.3 per cent had the highest shelter to income ratio of any province in Canada, which as a whole had a rate of 47 per cent. New Brunswick's rate by comparison was 41.7 per cent. By shelter to income ratio, I am talking about what people spend of their income - Katherine was talking about that - the proportion of their household income that they actually spend on housing. So of the tenants in Nova Scotia who were in core need, their average shelter to income ratio was over 50 per cent. That is pretty amazing. In Nova Scotia rents were the fourth highest in Canada. In Halifax, in 1999, Halifax rents ranked 10th out of 25 census metropolitan areas in Canada.
I called CMHC this morning, just to get some recent information. I knew the vacancy rate on the peninsula of Halifax has been very low; it has been hovering around 1 per cent for the last year. What I was told was in peninsula south - that is the area south of the Citadel - the overall apartment vacancy rate was 0.7 per cent. In public and social housing in the south end of the city, it was 0.7 per cent. These rates are actually dropping. Between last year and this year, the decline was from 2.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent in the south end of the city.
Just to turn to some other issues because a couple of the other points that actually come out of this business of talking about core need, core need is a measure that CMHC uses to look at whether people are living in suitable accommodations; that is whether there are enough rooms per person, the physical adequacy of whether the housing is in good condition or not and finally, whether or not the housing is affordable at 30 per cent of the income of that household. It is rather more complicated than that and unless I read the whole definition to you - I won't bother but if you want to get into it, we can talk about that.
In looking at the issue of housing adequacy, in 1996, 37,000 dwellings in Nova Scotia were in need of major repair; 9,500 were rented and 27,500 were owned. Seventy per cent of Nova Scotia's dwellings in need of repair were occupied by households earning less than $30,000 a year. There is a connection between low income and poor housing, that is very clear.
On the matter of overcrowding, this, I think, is really important because it touches on the issue of homelessness, it touches on the issue of near homelessness, it talks about the problem that is looming. I take a real interest in this because I am old enough to have gone through that period in the 1950's and 1960's when we were building a lot of stuff and there was a lot of optimism that we had poor housing conditions on the run. Every year CMHC used to produce statistics that said how many toilets there were and how much indoor plumbing there was and how many furnaces there were and how much home ownership there was.
Between 1971 and 1991, there were dramatic decreases in the rates of overcrowding across Canada. These are real gains, a tremendous kind of attack on housing needs. However, between 1991 and 1996, there were dramatic increases in overcrowding. Nova Scotia's increase was 188 per cent; it far exceeded the rate of increase of the other Atlantic Provinces: New Brunswick got 168 per cent, Newfoundland at 38 per cent, P.E.I. at 175 per cent and Canada, as a whole, at 123 per cent. This issue, to me, is really critical and I will just tie it back to the issue of homelessness and the point that was made earlier about families doubling up. Families double up when the choice is double up or live on the street. That is what we are looking at here, it is that close.
One other thing in terms of new supply, in 1993, you are probably all aware that the federal government withdrew from the funding of new social and public housing. Then just to sort of reflect that, its impact on Nova Scotia, in 1992 we built 107 units of new social housing; in 1993 it was down to 67 units; in 1994 it was 30 units. They were kind of left over. They were kind of in the pipeline and slowly the tap got turned off and that was the end in 1994. With the exception of the new men's shelter in Halifax, there has been no new social housing built in Nova Scotia since 1994.
I would just like to say a few things by way of summary and I would draw your attention back to the larger document, it is much more specific and detailed; let me just say a few things, by way of closing remarks.
It is clear the housing need in Nova Scotia is high and that it is increasing across the province. It is also clear from Louise's research that the character of need varied dramatically from one part of the province to another. Tenant needs, on the other hand, is a general problem across the province. First Nations housing in the province is known to be in a deplorable condition and I haven't addressed that in these statistics, that is a whole other subject, but there is no question about that.
Secondly, there are increasing needs related to the state of repair of our existing housing stock. It is critical that we find an effective way of protecting, maintaining and upgrading our existing stock of affordable housing. When I talk in terms of protecting, I am talking about
protecting the stock of 22,000 or 23,000 units of social and public housing that we have in the province, it's an important asset. But so too is that part of the private stock that is affordable and we have to find ways of addressing its quality and of protecting it. I stress this because I know very well that our ability to add new stock is going to be severely restricted. While I agree with Louise, there is a real problem when you are not putting anything in and the need is increasing, how you are going to address that increasing need is a real problem, I mean, it is an impossibility. One thing is for sure, we don't have to help by allowing the stock of affordable housing to decline further.
The province's financial ability to meet these housing needs - 58,000 households in core need, 37,000 units in need of major repair - our need is way beyond what we are putting in. We are doing 1,000 units a year - I am being very rough here because I know the numbers are actually in a table back there - in terms of rehabilitation and various other kinds of modifications to the stock. At that rate we would be 50 years to 60 years before we finished dealing with a need that is going to continue growing anyway.
We clearly need federal funding. There is no question the federal government has to get back in. If we are going to get more housing, we need more money and there is no other way around that. However, to underscore a point that was made earlier, even if we had more money there is a really serious problem with our capacity to actually deliver. Over the years we have allowed our ability to actually deliver affordable housing to decline dramatically.
There was a period when there were resource groups across the province that worked at the community level, to actually deliver affordable housing. There was a time when there was actually a person on the staff of the Halifax Regional Municipality, whose sole responsibility was housing. Municipal governments in Nova Scotia have seen fit to - I don't know how to put this politely - they now claim . . .
MR. JERRY PYE: They are out of the housing business.
MR. WANZEL: Yes, they are out of the housing business, that is how they put it (Interruptions) As far as they are concerned it is a provincial responsibility. The municipal level has actually kind of dropped aside, the feds are out, so the province is on the stick. But clearly, the other thing that comes out of Louise's research, is that the need is so specific in our communities that without community initiatives such as that in Antigonish, we are at a dead loss to be able to do anything about this. They know what is required; they don't know how to deliver it. That capacity to deliver, we are going to have to start investing again in building that capacity up.
Research. It was murder putting this little report together. Researching housing needs in the Province of Nova Scotia, given that it is so specific, is very difficult. We must find a way to identify its extent, specifically, its nature, location by location in a desegregated, detailed and specific way. If we can't do that, then we can't develop a response. The point has also been made, and I have always believed, that it is important to understand the whole universe of housing, from the million dollar villas that are getting built at the Head of St. Margarets Bay,
to the most modest social housing initiative. It is one thing, it isn't a whole bunch of different things, it is one thing and they all affect each other.
When we do the research we have to understand what the relationship is between the rental sector, between the public housing sector, between home ownership, because clearly what is happening here is that many young households are being trapped in rental housing because they can't afford to get into home ownership because the cost of new homes in metro is just out of sight, because they are not building modest homes anymore, they are building expensive homes on larger lots. What that means is that there is pressure on the vacancy rate. So they are all connected and we have to look at it in a connected way.
In our research we thought it would be interesting to actually take this core need thing and actually look at it in terms of specifics. How many people have housing needs due to an affordability problem? How many and where are those who have suitability problems? How many have adequacy problems? Where are they and what is the nature of it? It is hard to get that information, very difficult.
One other point that I should add to this is that it complicates it and the point has already been made, is that most people on social assistance are in core need. So as a government and as a province, we are kind of subsidizing people in core need. Where the shelter component of that assistance is going, it is going to a lot of very bad housing but that is a problem all across Canada. We need to look at that.
One last point - I am way overtime - we, in Nova Scotia, have not filled the vacuum that was left when the feds just split. We do have programs, there is no question of that. I can't say, I don't know that we have a policy. We certainly don't have a policy that is able to address the kinds of questions that have been raised at this table today. What I would suggest is that we need a housing strategy of our own. We don't want to replace CMHC because we never liked what they were doing anyway. (Laughter) Well, that is true to a considerable extent. Anyway, we must have a housing strategy of our own that is homegrown, that finds a way to identify the problems, finds a way to mobilize the resources to address them and does that in a way that is efficient, economical, sustainable - because I think that is a very critical concept here - and humane. I thank you for your time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Maybe at this time we can go around the table and if anyone has a comment or question they can ask it. Ms. MacDonald.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I find your work extremely interesting but very disturbing. I have had a chance to read some of the master's research and your paper, the working paper on the Nova Scotia update that we have been given. In the last few days I think Nova Scotians have been sort of fixated watching this little girl who almost died, who was frozen. When I think about that situation I think about her mom who was evicted and who has gone to live with another family member. This is a classic case, in some ways of these families who are homeless but not homeless, at risk and what have you and then all of the important issues around having safe, affordable housing that you see so concretely in that situation.
It seems to me that it is clear that we need a national housing strategy but when I look at your information, one of the things that jumps out is just how much worse Nova Scotia has been doing on just about every indicator that you are using as a measurement. I am wondering why is it that we, in particular, are falling on the bottom of the provincial heap in this way? Is it because we don't have a provincial strategy of our own? It seems to me that although we don't have the resources maybe to address the magnitude of the problem, we need to use research and our resources in a strategic and sort of creative way. Why is it that that is not happening? Is it happening, or why isn't it happening?
MR. WANZEL: I don't know that I can answer that. I can say, for instance, there is a significant difference between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. New Brunswick's rate of increase has not been nearly so great as it has been here. Perhaps it is tied in part to the economy. Perhaps it is the fact that the province gave housing a priority some years ago and it has actually encouraged community-based housing groups and the provincial association of community-based groups. Frankly, I don't know and it may be that economically speaking the situation there is rather different than it is here. It is hard to actually explain.
Other provinces - British Columbia, for example - have maintained all through the time that the feds have actually backed off, a small social housing program; Quebec too has done that. I understand - although I have never actually been able to identify it or I don't know what the numbers are - New Brunswick claims to have maintained a program in affordable housing. It wouldn't have been very significant but they did try to keep something going and they did try to do more. Saskatchewan, too, has been pretty innovative over the last several years in dealing with remote housing issues, with First Nations housing issues and with inner-city problems in Saskatoon and Regina.
There are things happening in other provinces which may explain it and not much has happened here. That would explain one thing but the worsening economic situation would perhaps say, if you are not doing anything and the situation is getting worse, then you are going to have greater need. I think the other thing that is happening here is that the economy, in metro in particular, has been going in the other direction. In effect, it has intensified the problems and widened the disparities. I think that is another explanation.
I don't think there is anywhere in New Brunswick that has the kind of economic optimism that metro has had and doesn't have that kind of intensity. Clearly, when you look at the peninsula, you can see that that is at work, all the condominiums downtown and the vacancy rates and then look at the rents. It is pretty intimidating.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Maybe it is actually a good thing that we have so many former municipal politicians sitting around the table but I want to ask you - I think there is basically consensus that the federal government needs to develop a national housing strategy and get back into the business of providing some leadership and resources in some ways. My question is about the role of municipalities. Municipalities, local government being so close to
communities and also having the ability to do some land planning and these kinds of things, what do you think about the future of addressing the issue of affordability of housing without having the municipal governments actively participating and having a role to play and appearing to be very reluctant to get involved in the housing field?
MS. RICHARDS: Again, another complex kind of issue. I guess the municipalities are not always reluctant but they are reluctant because they don't have the finances. The other point that I think, having been in the business for a bit, is that they do have a role to play and they are playing some role. The problem is that they are not taking that role on to the next level. In policy planning, land use planning for example, that could be done and it could be done at the municipal level. Now I don't know, at this particular point, if it is a problem that they are not getting the support from the province and therefore are so hamstrung in terms of staffing that they have a difficult time doing that.
The other issue is that in planning, and the planning circles that I have been involved with are so involved with development - looking at where development should occur and getting it done as quickly as possible and making sure we get those high end condominiums done and those commercial properties developed quickly so we can get the economy going and moving - that we don't often spend a lot of time or resources at the municipal level for looking at that more serious issue and how they can be involved. Certainly they can be involved in the policy planning issue, they can be involved in the land issue and probably at some points in terms of inspection. Inspections and rooming houses and substandard housing is very much a municipal responsibility and resources need to be put into that and there seems to be a problem with what has been downloaded from the province and just as the province feels hit upon from the feds, the municipalities are feeling that as well.
So that dynamic, my understanding working in community now, is that community people are just not worried about that. They just want something done about this issue and how you can work out the three levels of government, what you can do in terms of trying to define and decide who should do what has been a constant battle and I think community leaders and people who have been advocates don't want to hear that argument again. They just want to say, how can we all work together and do it more effectively? Certainly the municipality has a role to play but where does the money come from. I think if we are looking at trying to provide government-sponsored agencies but also non-profit groups with the capacity to look after housing, someone is going to provide that money and I don't think that is going to come from the municipalities.
MS. REED: One of the things we are facing in Canada, well, around the world thanks to globalization, is like a bad case of trickle-down theory-itis or something. There is this idea that you can't tax . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me. Could you speak a little closer to the mike so that it can be recorded?
MS. REED: Sure. There is this idea that you can't tax the rich because they will leave and you can't tax the corporation because it will be hard on the economy but you can cut social programs, you can cut housing, you can cut social assistance and other things that affect people who are poor and essentially voiceless. Obviously there is great folly in that assumption. We have seen, in Canada, the most significant, deep cuts to federal transfers for all of the provincial responsibilities in the history of Canada and we have structural adjustment, essentially, in Canada, à la World Bank theories about tax the poor and hand it to the rich and everything will be fine; again, trickle-down theory. It is not working.
We keep hearing from some sectors, those generally who have the most to gain from this kind of thinking that we need to keep on sort of wringing out the economy and choking it down with high interest rates and if we keep pursuing that tack, we are going to turn the corner any day now, although I have not been hearing so much of turning the corner any day now but a few years ago we heard, oh, we are going to turn around, the recession will be over, we're going to turn this thing around. People are seeing the economic situation under this structural adjustment, North American style, get worse and worse. This housing issue is just one reflection of that worsening and the consequences of those kind of tax breaks for the rich, cut social programs, trickle-down mentality. It has to stop or we are going to find ourselves in a big crisis.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I must say that I am delighted that you are here before the committee today and I want to make the comment that every time I hear someone saying that this is an extremely complex or complicated problem that it gives me the impression that somebody wants a way out and particularly government wants a way out. Quite frankly I am sick and tired of hearing that because first of all we live in a province that is rich in natural resources and we can provide affordable housing for everyone. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot provide affordable housing.
When I served on Dartmouth City Council, we did hire a housing coordinator by the name of Jim Duke who I referred to earlier. His role and responsibility was to do land banking for the municipality, to provide the property should the other levels of government become interested and supportive of providing subsidized or public housing or affordable housing to communities. The result of that, we had hoped that the other levels of government would continue on.
We also found a large cry from the public sector and I want you to know that. The public sector got out and said it is not your business to be in the housing business of government. It is our business to be in the housing business and we will develop the type of housing stock and so on and we will make it affordable so that those individuals can at least have a shelter over their heads. That is certainly not true. Since 1991, as you have indicated, Grant, in fact the number of housing starts by CMHC in itself that allowed from 107 down to 60, I think it was, and then down to 30. Those, as a matter of fact, are exactly as you have said. They were already in process and, as a matter of fact, it was a matter of completion and then you shut the tap off.
I recall back in the time, and I am going to try to be somewhat brief, Mr. Chairman, but it is an issue that really guts to my heart. I have to tell you that because I represent a community where in fact a lot of slum housing and apartment complexes happen to exist and it is, I guess, horrifying to have to go down to that community and see the kind of conditions that people live in and know full well that I live in a country like Canada and a province like Nova Scotia. I want you to know that when I toured Antigonish - excuse me if it is a bit emotional, but I want you to know - when, in fact, there was a boom with respect to the oil developments, that in Antigonish there were zero vacancy rates within housing components. People were actually forced to move out of Antigonish in order to live and in Guysborough and other areas. People who actually couldn't afford to move, had to be forced to move. Government had no policy to address that issue. There was no policy by government set out to address an issue of what happens when there is a boom and there is a need to bring in, that all of a sudden there is this influx or this migration of a population that is out there, employment, and driving up the cost of housing and yet not providing for those people who already exist there.
Those are very real, very serious problems and I don't want anyone to tell me that they are complicated and they can't be addressed because they can. Just yesterday, as a matter of fact, when you were talking about your three visits across the province, I just received a memo individuals are living in substandard housing that is provided by the housing authority of this province. In fact, they have wells that they can't drink the water out of. They have been boiling for eight months now. They have septic tanks which, in fact, cannot be addressed until the spring and they have already had that and it should have been addressed last spring. Then the housing authority says, get yourself a lawyer.
Is that the kind of thing that we want to hear from government? I should think not. I should think the day has passed when that happens and you are quite right that in the rural communities there is a real problem with respect to the kind of affordable housing, the kind of housing shelters that should be provided to people in order to have a quality of life.
I also want to remind you, I was listening to CBC this morning and it brought back to my attention that, in fact, in 1997 the national children's agenda specifically implied that there ought to be an issue addressed to housing and that, in fact, it was quite important in order for the early childhood development of children to have the kind of housing shelters that in fact would allow them to be part of that early childhood development. It is not only out there in the institutions where they get the early childhood development, it is development within the family itself and within the home and the place that they live. So all these are significant. They are all very important.
I guess I say to you that I am very pleased with the statistics that you brought before me because at least we can articulate that across the legislative floor but if the government does not have an ear and does not have the money and will say that we don't have the funding to deliver these, then we continue to fall back and fall back into chaos with respect to providing housing.
I know that the municipal government is certainly not interested in it. We have had a housing project that was sponsored by the Nova Scotia Department of Housing in an area that
said, look, the normal doesn't apply, 5,000 square foot lots, now we will have 6,000 square foot lots. So every single home was built on a 6,000 square foot lot. We went to the municipal government. We said some of this property ought to be set aside for modest housing development, undersized lots and so on. That didn't happen. We actually got a seniors' complex and then a year later it turns around and they come before our council and the council rescinds the decision and turns around and allows it to be single family lots again.
So there has to be a concerted effort here by all levels of government, not only the provincial and the federal government but there has to be a drive and an initiative by the municipal government through the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to put that on the agenda as a number one priority, and to tell the government and the FCM that in fact they want this as a priority and the province ought to address that with the federal government as well.
So if I sound a bit emotional and disturbed, it is because for many days you people probably have read about a community in the North End where, in fact, the unsightly premises, people living in substandard apartment complexes and so on have hit and you don't know the kind of devastation that that causes to a community. I think we have to recognize the kind of devastation that that causes to a community. It is time to address that very issue.
Social services, I don't know if, since they have taken over the Department of Housing, they will address that issue or not because social services says, we are not in the business of finding you a unit, you go out there and find your own apartment first and then we will give you the social assistance. So people who have difficulty, they find the cheapest, most effective shelter component that they can get in order to satisfy the criteria to get social assistance. That, to me, is wrong. It is wrong and it is something that has to be addressed.
MR. HENDSBEE: Was there a question?
MR. PYE: No, I didn't ask a question, it was a general statement.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacEwan.
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Chairman, I don't want to sound either emotional or disturbed and I don't want to create the impression either that this committee meeting is like going to church and hearing not one sermon but a series of sermons one after another, this being the third. I am going to try to keep it brief, if I can. I want to compliment our witnesses here today and commend them for the quality of their research.
I come from a community which some may think has its share of housing problems, the community of Whitney Pier. Having said that, I am quite proud of my community and I think we have made a lot of progress there over the past 30 years in addressing many long-standing housing problems and hopefully more can be done. That is what it is all about when you are in politics. You try to make things better. You don't try to take comfort in misery but rather you try to eliminate it to the extent that you can, because politics is the art of the possible, not of the impossible.
In the 1950's and prior to that time, the role of government in the field of housing was extremely limited. I recall the Cooperative Housing Program and the main involvement of government in those times, in the 1940's and 1950's, was providing a pool of capital the cooperatives could draw on. There was no belief at that time that it was the role of the state to supply the housing needs of the community. I think that concept may have been developed under an alternative economic system in the Eastern Bloc, but it was not the consensus in Canada.
In the 1970's, in the Trudeau years, the just society, there was an enormous surge of federal investment and interest in the field of housing. As a result we have the RAP program and there was the NIP program, the Neighbourhood Improvement Program, that enabled privately-owned homes to be repaired with public assistance. That was a first, it had never happened before but it began then. Also, the massive in-surge of senior citizens and family public housing, which the federal government paid the lion's share of - I forget the funding formula but the provinces and municipalities were virtually unable to resist the massive federal financial assistance available, not only for the cost of constructing those, but also for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep and subsidization of operating costs.
After a while Ottawa felt that they couldn't continue this as an indefinite blank cheque-type thing because Ottawa was picking up, I think, 75 per cent of the bills or more, so they ended that. Since that time the province has tried to fill the breach, whether it was under the Liberals or under the Conservatives. When the Liberal Government was in power I hope that they did a great deal to help in the field of housing and whatever they did I know they didn't do enough because you can never do enough, you always have to try to do more, but you do the best you can. I will certainly struggle, as best as I can, to maintain what we have.
I don't know how the housing budget is going to fare in the upcoming round of budgetary cuts. We have been warned by Premier Hamm to brace ourselves through the very worst. I won't go into that but it does impact on housing programs, of course it does, and on community services and on every social program the government is involved in. I certainly will support any effort made, whether it be by these people or any group, to try to hold onto what we have and hopefully, try to do somewhat more. Having said that I rest my case, Mr. Chairman.
MR. WANZEL: If I might just respond. I think there is some urgency to the question of levels of government and cooperation. I also think there is some urgency to the province itself having a clear strategy with respect to housing. I will briefly explain why.
Under immense pressure for many years, the federal government is on the verge, in fact, it has recently announced a program of support for rental housing, directed at the private sector. It has also kind of floated an idea of providing support for affordable home ownership through some new device that I don't fully understand. But these are initiatives that the federal government has been under tremendous pressure to initiate. My concern would be that the province be kind of alert, active and ready to actually act upon those initiatives, because a whole lot of money isn't going to come out of the province for housing, I am fairly confident about that.
We have all, nationally, been putting pressure on the federal government to put money in, whether it is for private sector housing, whether it is for social or public housing, whether it is for RAP, whether it is for all of those things, it seems to me important that we look at it in a balanced way but that we actually have a strategy and I think that is quite critical. Otherwise the money is going to come and we are going to have a hard time taking it up, we are going to have a hard time delivering it to where it is really needed.
I beg to differ with Mr. Pye, but I have been involved in a development for six years in the north end of this city. It is complicated, it is taxing, it is very difficult. It may seem easy, people need housing and we have resources, let's build some housing. Under the current circumstances it is very difficult. As a non-profit developer I can tell you that it is a nightmare dealing with three levels of government, community agencies, to say nothing of the contingent factors like oil contamination on your site, that have a tremendous impact on actually delivering this stuff.
Anyway, I really wanted to just come to the point, to underscore the need for a provincial strategy, the imminence of federal announcements and our capacity to actually be able to take up some of that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Chairman, I come from Pictou County and we have come a long way with regard to affordable housing. There are certainly a great many rental properties in the lower end and I think rents are quite reasonable in most areas of Pictou County, other than in New Glasgow itself. The towns are very close so transportation is not a big problem.
I have always taken quite an interest in alternative housing, in particular co-op housing and even more particular, the continuing co-op movement whereby we accessed federal monies and built single family dwellings, duplexes or multiple unit buildings. In fact, I was Chairman of the Co-op Housing Development Board for several years. In my mind it was a very successful program and I was very disappointed that the federal government dropped the ball on that. The tenants had a sense of ownership, whereby they managed the properties and had some direction in the outcome of those properties and how well they were managed and so on. They were managed very well in my mind when, in fact, we were able to turn over the properties to the tenants.
I am interested to hear your comments with regard to the continuing co-ops, is it something that we should push the federal government to get back into and move forward on in your mind, or do they have their place in today's society? If not, what other alternatives should we look at?
MS. REED: I think they do, I think it is a good model.
MR. DEWOLFE: We have some in Antigonish.
MS. REED: Yes, we have a number of them in Antigonish and they meet the housing needs of people who otherwise would probably live in housing like what I described earlier in my comments.
While I am speaking, I would just like to take the opportunity to challenge the idea that government funding for affordable housing is a communist idea, therefore bad, I guess, is the point you are making. We live in the second wealthiest country in the world and we heard from Mr. Wanzel and Louise VanWart that we have a deplorable situation and we have had very significant cuts in social programs. There is definitely a role for government in meeting these needs because the people who are suffering under a stagnant minimum wage and social assistance policy that is inadequate and that sort of thing, have no other recourse. We have a responsibility to them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hendsbee.
MR. HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, I am sure we could probably have a nice lively, long debate about ideologies and philosophies and who should be responsible through what levels of government, but through this whole process we have seen that the federal government has devolved itself of any involvement in regard to housing initiatives or housing development. The only thing that is basically left is Central Mortgage and Housing and that is probably on the way out soon enough.
I agree with the comments of my colleague, the member for Pictou East, with regard to the co-op housing initiatives. I think that is something we should look at in regard to trying to bring back to the table when resources are made available.
I would like to ask some of these individuals in regard to the responsibilities of government, we see the federal government getting itself out of it, falling into the hands of the province, we see the municipalities with one of the roles and responsibilities that Municipal Relations is now dealing with that perhaps the province should be taking over the full cost and full responsibility of social housing, instead of charging 12.5 per cent of operational costs back to the municipalities. Perhaps it should all lie in one particular spot, especially with this Progressive Conservative Government initiative of realigning housing services with Community Services; we see there is a connection between the two. Being cognizant of that fact, how do you feel in regard to - talking about municipal and provincial governments - where do you feel that those responsibilities should lie or ought to lie?
MR. WANZEL: My reaction to that is, I resisted the notion that the federal government would devolve many of its responsibilities, à la Charlottetown, and I wasn't happy about that. Housing was the first portfolio to actually get devolved fully and it was devolved basically out of the original Constitution. Housing was a provincial responsibility, not a federal one; the feds kind of moved in and did a lot of things. So the argument was it was just going backward and always was. Given that we could count on the feds for money, I am quite happy if the province were to fully take up its responsibility as the provincial agency to develop a strategy and oversee that strategy. I am firmly convinced from my own experience in development, both back in the
co-op days and also currently, that municipal governments are absolutely essential as partners in this.
Municipalities can do stuff, they have given us tax exemptions and they can do other things. The province has a bag of tools that is amazing with what it can do. The real problem is sort of developing the capacity to take advantage of those tools, put the pieces together and make stuff happen. So we are really talking more about implementation, just about how you put the pieces together, how Katherine gets the money to have the time to pull the resources together, just to develop a proposal and then have some people locally to actually help deliver the stuff. I think we can't get away without the municipalities being involved. I think the principal responsibility is going to have to be with the province, I don't disagree with that.
MR. HENDSBEE: It was my experience with my municipal days as being the Past Chairman of the Tax and Grants Committee and Past Chairman of the Dangerous and Unsightly Premises Committee, I have seen there has been municipal involvement there. One of the biggest problems we have had is with the requirements of the minimal standards and these slum landlords or whatever the case may be, or maintaining boarding houses or rooming houses that were in deplorable condition. That is where I believe the municipality's responsibility should be in the by-law enforcement to make sure these minimum standards are kept up to meet the needs. Personally, I think the province may need to have a minimum standard and if it doesn't meet those needs then, I hate to say it but perhaps recipients of provincial assistance would not be able to be housed in those units until they bring their standards up at the present time.
My concern and question is, in my area, I served on the Preston Area Housing Fund Board for six years as a municipal councillor and I have seen some of the initiatives there, bringing in replacement homes and everything else. I also see the problems of having multi-generations in one household, three or four generations, which is not uncommon in the Preston area, of trying to make ends meet and stuff like that. Also, I have seniors in the Lake Echo community who are getting to the point that they have to abandon the nest because they can no longer maintain their house. What do they do? They have to either move into an apartment or a condominium in town.
In your research I didn't see too much about senior housing opportunities. Should we bring in seniors' apartments, or seniors' initiatives, or in-law suites or whatever the case may be, to try to address how we can keep our seniors in their communities, instead of having to abandon it, go into the urban core where the services are, which builds up more pressure on the vacancy rates. I think it is just a spiralling pressure. What do you feel about senior housing alternatives in rural areas?
MR. WANZEL: I agree, the thing that occurs to me as you are speaking, when we did this research we said it was not going to be comprehensive, we didn't have the resources to be comprehensive. The 1998 report that the Housing Department did, actually contains significant references to seniors' housing and identified it as one of the priority needs of policy. If I am not mistaken, I think there was an emphasis there on trying to find ways to keep people in their own homes. Certainly the situation in Sydney, for example, raises that question.
The problem is that people with declining incomes where there is lots of housing but they are going to have a hard time hanging on to it much less maintaining it and keeping it up to standard. So, as an issue, for a housing strategy, the issue was raised earlier about what do you do in a boom, but what do you do when the economy is kind of sliding and sliding precipitously? There is a lot of public housing in various parts of the province that is vacant. At the same time, the vacancy rate in public housing in south end Halifax is 0.7 per cent. So it is a problem of having too much stuff in one place and not enough in another. I don't know how you address that issue but certainly it is a question.
MR. HENDSBEE: My last comment with regard to the housing needs. We are approaching the 400th Anniversary of the European occupation or the settlements of North America or whatever, back then the Mi'kmaq community were able to have a home-grown solution in treating their housing needs and we see the French experience by going to Ste. Croix where they didn't have adequate housing or shelter on an island in the wintertime so they had to come over to Annapolis Royal to build the habitat there. I think that we have been trying to address housing needs ever since. With your funding about to come to a close for the year 2002-03, I think it is very timely that the 400th Anniversary is lining up at the same time. I think we do need some solutions and I just hope and pray that we can get our resources in place and handled to ensure that our province can deliver housing at some time in the future.
MS. RICHARDS: I would like to make one quick comment on that, because the role of every level of government is obviously important in my opinion on how we address this issue. It is starting to become very, very important and also people are suffering on the streets nightly and in shelters and all kinds of facilities that are not appropriate. So, when we are trying to look at the issue of this money that we are spending right now, it really is for that very emergency situation that we are looking at.
The ongoing issue after this money is spent and it is probably not even enough, if it is $6 million - I have to say that if you want to build a housing facility, most of you know it is $2 million or $3 million at least to build one housing facility and that would be quite small. We also should realize that the province has a very strong role to play in these emergency facilities. They are here and they are with us, whether we like overnight shelters or whatever, we have to provide that kind of service in our community. How is that going to be ongoingly sustained? The agencies now that are delivering those services are stretched to the limit; some of them are churches, some of them are other faith communities, some of them are non-profit organizations. The kinds of people that I have met in the last six months are working phenomenal hours and also doing fund-raising and trying to always be ahead of finding out where they can get the next grant to provide that salary range for one person.
There is that issue in addition to trying to provide the long term and address the affordability; it is the short-term problem that we are having right now. The federal government says Halifax has got a major crisis on its hands and we have to try to put money into that in order to get to the next step. So, it is a really important role I think that the province has to play.
MR. HENDSBEE: My last comment with regard to that is that with the discussions of facilities and inadequate planning for use of public lands for those kinds of housing initiatives or shelter needs, I would hope that perhaps if schools are to be closed in this municipality in different areas that these school properties could be looked at as a possibility as a shelter place in regard to converting them over. You have the properties, you have the buildings, it just needs a conversion. I think that might be an opportunity to look at in the short term.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chataway.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Chairman, I certainly understand that we have a dedicated group in the Affordable Housing Association and it is a good group and as you know yourself, Mr. Chairman, you ladies have done very well because basically we certainly get the opinion that you care and are very dedicated to the people you are trying to help out all over the province, which is good to see.
I guess more certainly for this person is trying to get some information and I certainly appreciate the information that you have given to this group. Mr. Wanzel, you said one of the places said that they had done all right, but I think you pointed out many reasons that you might take this up with them. I just wonder, I certainly got the point made, in 1996 a total of 37,000 Nova Scotian dwellings were in need of major repair; 9,500 rented and 27,500 owned, et cetera. Did you ever give to the people in the Department of Housing these figures and where did you get those figures? You came up with a figure, exactly how did you arrive at the figure?
MR. WANZEL: I didn't, I borrowed the figure. CMHC produces many bulletins and they are public information. We just monitor that information. The people at the provincial Housing Department do have that information and are aware of it, yes.
MR. CHATAWAY: Of course, they say this is a matter of fact and things like this, and how do they react to you pointing it out, this is not good enough or something like this, how do they react? How often do you meet with the Department of Housing?
MR. WANZEL: I have become very good friends with a number of people in the Housing Department over the last six years. We meet . . .
MR. CHATAWAY: Quite on a regular basis.
MR. WANZEL: Very regular. Not with respect to the province as a whole, although I must say I don't have any complaints about access. That is certainly not an issue. I think there are many issues. The capacity of the provincial Housing Department to actually do things has declined as it has lost people. It certainly has a different profile now that it is part of Community Services, which I think could have some benefits.
Just to take up the sort of chant about capacity, I think there is a real issue when our municipal governments and the provincial government and our community agencies that we might want to rely on to deliver stuff have actually lost the capacity, they haven't retained it, it
is like losing muscle tone, you actually lose stuff. In losing that, I think we have a real problem in actually being able to do anything. I know the Housing staff is constantly on the run from one end of the province to the other trying to deal with problems, trying to deal with issues and there are very significant issues when you are dealing with 23,000 units of housing, by way of management, maintenance, to say nothing of trying to address new needs.
MR. CHATAWAY: I suppose when it says in need of major repair, 27,500 owned and 9,500 rented, are these dangerous houses; I mean by people staying in those houses, they are risking life and limb, sort of thing?
MR. WANZEL: By major repair, they mean major repair.
MR. CHATAWAY: What's involved? Do you know?
MR. WANZEL: I can give you the definition.
MR. CHATAWAY: Okay, I would appreciate it if you can give it to me.
MR. WANZEL: I can't - all it says in this definition is that it is below a certain standard of major. I would have thought that it had to do with the structure, with the heating system, with exterior cladding and windows.
MR. CHATAWAY: I certainly would appreciate that definition because the public, basically I think most people, are pretty fair-minded people and they feel sorry for people in this situation. Certainly I don't think Nova Scotians want to condemn people to living in very inadequate situations. By getting those facts and figures out or, here are the reasons why people should move, I think they would basically help their cause better by telling people these are people who really need help and here is what they are putting up with, so let's do that.
MR. WANZEL: The points raised both by Katherine and my colleague with respect to building standards and housing conditions, they were really talking about people whose health is at stake. We are not talking about the sort of nagging hinge that you need to screw into the wall . . .
MR. CHATAWAY: Or the colours?
MR. WANZEL: No. We are talking about substantial problems.
MR. CHATAWAY: Yes, exactly.
MR. WANZEL: To that extent the presence of that number of units in needs of major repairs is a significant problem.
MS. REED: Mould; unsanitary conditions; lack of light and ventilation; lack of safe, secure doors and windows; that kind of thing. Things that compromise the safety and health of people and therefore cost people like us a lot of money.
MR. CHATAWAY: You are saying we should have a standard across Nova Scotia, okay, this is . . .
MR. WANZEL: We have a standard.
MS. REED: We have standards. We just aren't keeping with them because - well, for a number of reasons.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Samson.
MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Chairman, certainly I want to thank all the presenters, it is obvious you have clearly done a great deal of work on your presentations today and you bring with you years and years of experience in this. I think it is safe to say that this is an issue which crosses all political boundaries. Regardless at the end of the day, we all represent people who are faced with these situations. After all the political talk is done, we still have a housing problem that exists and the question is, what are going to do to address it? I think that is the important issue facing us all today.
I certainly agree with your positions that we do need housing policies, both federal and provincial. But I think it is essential that that policy be developed by people such as yourselves. I don't believe that housing policies should be developed in either Ottawa or in Halifax but should be working with groups and individuals who have that sort of experience. I think the money made available to you by the Honourable Claudette Bradshaw to address homelessness is a start in that direction by at least having the community coming forward and addressing what is the problem rather than Ottawa saying, here is the money, here is how you are going to spend it, because this is how you are going to solve your particular problem.
I think that is something the same for across the province because homelessness in Halifax is a much greater issue than it is in my own riding of Richmond County. So it is essential that the people in Halifax have an input in how to address that problem rather than I in Richmond telling you how to fix that problem in Halifax when I am fortunately not faced with that level of problem.
As pointed out by my colleague, Mr. MacEwan, I represent a fairly - for the major part - rural community. It is an ageing community and we have been able, as Mr. MacEwan has pointed out for his community, to use the funding made available by both the federal and provincial government to assist people, primarily who own their own homes. It has been a major accomplishment, it has done a lot for our communities, it has kept our communities aesthetically pleasing but even more importantly it has provided people with good homes regardless of their income, but that's becoming more and more of a challenge.
More and more we are seeing where that funding is being clawed back. It has now come to this "emergency" funding and what is considered an emergency now has to be an awful serious situation and it is not addressing the mould, ventilation or any of those things, it is addressing leaking roofs, electrical, furnace problems or chimney problems; windows, if you're lucky enough. Siding, work inside to replace carpets or anything else like that is just not even being considered at this point. That's a serious challenge for us because what is happening is that people who want to remain in their own homes are being forced to abandon their homes and are thus putting a bigger strain on subsidized housing, on seniors' housing complexes and even on your rental market, which is out there to start off with.
That's a major issue for us to address, especially in the rural parts, because I think people want to remain in their own homes and they are not asking to have palaces built around them, they are just asking specifically to have, as we say in the rural parts, a roof over their head that is not leaking and a well-functioning home. I think that one of the main things we need to address in solving this problem, is the people who are in their homes or own their homes, to keep them in those homes.
That's not only a question of housing, there are other programs which are impacting on that, such as your home care services and your in-home support program, which has had a freeze on any new applicants since April 2000. People are starting to leave their homes for housing units or they are being put in long-term care facilities, or their partner is having to go live in a seniors' unit, so they seek other housing because their own home is not sufficient. I think it is
one of those issues which impacts so many other programs, not only through Community Services but through the Department of Health and it is having an impact on all of us.
Clearly, it is an issue, since I have been elected, that I have lobbied both the provincial government and the federal government to try to put more money into housing. For my area the big issue, as I have said, is to keep people in their own homes. One of our biggest issues in my area is not that there isn't affordable housing out there, the rentals are affordable, in many parts they are older homes and they are large homes. So you have single individuals or you have single parents who are living in four bedroom homes, it is a nice home but when they get their heating bill and their electrical bill, it is killing them.
So one of our biggest issues is that the quality is good in the sense that it is a well-maintained home, the problem is they are just not suitable, I guess - and you talked about affordability and sustainability - they are not suitable in the sense that they are too large and they are being well kept, I am quite proud of that. For the most part, there are very few complaints of housing in my county of either rental homes or subsidized homes which are not being well maintained. We have been fortunate in that regard but that is one of the issues we are looking at, that the homes are just too large and in the wintertime it is killing people.
It is a tremendously frustrating issue. I am sure you have seen more frustration than we have, having worked in it so closely, but I commend you in your efforts and I can certainly say that it is an issue that we need to work on cooperatively. I think what you hear around the table today is not to just make cheap shots for political points, but to work together and put our heads together and hopefully at the end of the day start addressing these concerns before we come to the point where it is almost too late for our province to rebound. Thanks.
MR. WANZEL: I will just respond. One of the bullets on this one page deals with a report, a very new report from Statistics Canada, that deals with housing conditions in predominantly rural regions. It is very interesting. They have looked at it province by province, in the Territories and the Yukon and have looked at the proportion of households in those predominantly rural regions of those provinces in terms of the number of households having one or other or all of those housing needs. What we find is that Nova Scotia's share of problems on affordability was third overall behind the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. On adequacy, we had the highest share of problems of all of the provinces and was third overall behind the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. With respect to suitability of all the provinces, Nova Scotia was fourth highest and sixth overall between the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Newfoundland, B.C., P.E.I. and Alberta.
It is interesting, the gist of this report is that housing conditions in predominantly rural areas are better than they are in urban areas. That's the gist of it, but when you dig into the report and discover what the differences are from one province to another, you soon realize that on a comparison basis Nova Scotia doesn't do very well.
It is an interesting document because it looks at small communities. It leaves farms out for some reason, they explain it. But it looks at semi-rural areas near urban centres, as well as
the rural areas in general, and small towns. It desegregates that information somewhat but not fully. So you might be interested in looking at that. It doesn't say specifically about different parts of the province, unfortunately.
MR. HENDSBEE: Could I just ask, is that because the housing stock in this province is older because we were one of the first provinces settled?
MR. WANZEL: That's clearly one of the reasons that we are further along. That goes back to one of the questions that was asked earlier. It is absolutely true.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Parent.
MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you very much for your presentation. I echo all the other . . .
MR. MACEWAN: You agree with all the previous speakers.
MR. PARENT: Not with some of them. But I do thank them for their comments and thank you for your comments; along with others, this has been a growing concern for me. I remember when I was in Miami about seven years ago feeling a great empathy for the people on the streets there and smugly feeling as a Canadian that we were exempt from this sort of problem. It came as a bit of a shock to me when my old church in the northern part of Toronto, one of the wealthiest parts, opened its facilities as a shelter for the homeless, much to the chagrin of the surrounding community who fought it all the way. Yet, it was, I think, to their credit that they did so.
Also, one of the most bothersome days, when I was still working as a minister, was when I was called out to try to find housing for two 16 year old girls - I think there is a special crisis in the area of young people - who had spent the night, in February, in front of Dooly's in New Minas, sleeping on the sidewalk. That very same day in the newspaper one of the chairmen of our main banks who had made $4 million was complaining his salary was too low. I remember holding these two in my mind at the same time and knowing that something was terribly wrong with our society.
On the positive side, in my particular riding, there has been in the past - and unfortunately it is not quite as active now as it was - the Inter-Church Housing who did some very good work. It was a sort of model that preceded the popularity of Habitat for Humanity that Jimmy Carter has been involved with. It is still going on and I think that is a great model and I would love to see it pursued more vigorously and would appreciate any comments you have on it.
I see three philosophical problems though that really need to be dealt with and they have sort have been mentioned, the first one is federal money. That really comes down not only to dollars and cents but to the whole philosophy, are we a country with a unique social vision that embraces all geographic regions in the country, or not? We seem, as a country, to have been backing away from that and that is a major problem and philosophical direction that, I think, we need to discuss. I, for one, decry what has been happening in that regard.
The other one is societal priorities per se and to quote Bob Rae - I hope I have him right and my colleagues can correct me - we want, as Canadians, American tax levels and Scandinavian social programs so we end up with Canadian debt, and I think he put his finger on it. We need to decide what our priorities are going to be and stick to them.
The whole question of connectivity and holistic, as you say, we are not very good at that. When we come in with programs we sort of silo them and we don't have this connectivity because housing is affected by non-residents who come in and build these massive summer homes and it raises the tax rate on people who live there year-round, or the problem with addictions. Just the other day I had someone come in and I had known her when she was a young person. Her husband got addicted to VLT gambling and finally the marriage broke up but in the meantime, they are bankrupt and she is scrambling to find housing and it was just heart-rending to deal with that.
I have four quick questions that I would like to ask you. One is because you perked my interest because I represent the Kentville community. Kentville is landlocked and it is a problem in many different ways, in terms of the tax base for housing as well. I actually live in Canning and Canning has always complained, vis-à-vis Kentville, that all the low income housing was put in Canning rather than Kentville. But were you able to look outside the borders of Kentville at all to see if there was adequate housing in Kings County per se, or was your study just confined to the town limits?
MS. VANWART: It was actually just defined to the Town of Kentville. That is what the case study looked at, yes.
MR. PARENT: In terms of core needs, Mr. Wanzel, how do you define core need? I didn't see a definition of this.
MR. WANZEL: I will read it to you. I did mention that it is a bit complicated. This was in 1999. CMHC has calculated core housing need if a household falls below one of the standards of adequacy, suitability and affordability and if in the local housing market, in order
to pay the rent for alternative housing that meets the three housing standards, the household would have to spend 30 per cent or more of its income.
MR. PARENT: I thought that was the figure but I wasn't sure. In regard to this whole question of rural versus urban housing, I am not sure I have it right but my understanding is that nationally, people in rural areas are better off with adequate housing, but that doesn't seem to be the case here in Nova Scotia. Is that true and if so, why would we buck the trend in this regard?
MR. WANZEL: It does vary. Rural areas in the Maritimes, rural areas on the Prairies, the Yukon and Northwest Territories; the Northwest Territories seems to be a really serious problem. Of people in housing need in those predominantly rural areas Nova Scotia has a larger share than most of the other areas. We did talk a bit about why that might be, the age of the stock, the character of the economy and maybe the amount that some provinces have put in to actually forestall those problems.
MR. PARENT: When you talk about the age of the stock, I assume, and I don't know this for sure but in many of our seniors' housing, like our schools because the age they were built, we have tremendous environmental problems, like mould problems. Is that the case with a lot of our housing?
MR. WANZEL: Not with the public housing, if that is what you are speaking of. In terms of the public and certainly with respect to the public housing that is not a problem. With some of our social housing it has been a problem because of the way the houses were built, the buildings were built. Just with respect to Inter-Church, it has been a member of the Affordable Housing Association for a long time. Basically what it has been doing for quite a while is hanging on to what it has. Its capacity to actually initiate new stuff would be very limited at the moment. I suspect that they would have to start all over again. But you are right, they did some wonderful things and did use a lot of the programs, did co-op housing and did very low income housing, did a lot of affordable home ownership and various other strategies and it worked very well.
MR. PARENT: In terms of policy - and this is my last and my larger question - you made the comment that we have a lot of programs, some of which were very good but no coherent policy, in your opinion. What would be broad outlines of that policy, if I could put that back on you, that you would like to see the province adopt? Or is that an unfair question?
MR. WANZEL: No, it is not unfair and I appreciate your thoughts that community-based agencies and organizations would have to be involved in thinking that through. What I said in my introduction was that to me, there is a misfit between the programs we have and how the need is actually evolving because the need has changed. I think our awareness that the need has changed needs to be developed further with more research. I hesitate to do that one but I think it is absolutely necessary, we have to know more precisely what is going on. If that is part of it, I guess that would be one thought. The other thought is that the thing that did come through in our research and I think in what all four of us have said, is that from the little we do
know and understand, there is a tremendous diversity of need. So it probably isn't possible to think of a very kind of - maybe as CMHC did when it had its national housing policies - big block policies. We are going to need to be very creative.
There are some housing problems that aren't housing problems. It is not about housing, it is about income, it is about finding ways of actually staying in a decent house and having the necessary community supports to be able to do that. I think in some cases the strategy I am talking about is a strategy both of putting new stuff in, of maintaining what we have, of developing our understanding of local need, re-establishing the capacity to deliver new stuff, to maintain the old stuff, to upgrade some of the old stuff and above all - I can't stress enough - the importance of the public investment we have already made in public and social housing, in co-ops, in non-profits, in municipal non-profits and in public housing.
I also happen to sit on the board of the Metropolitan Housing Authority and can't help but be impressed with how important that stock of housing actually is and how hard people work at trying to keep it in good shape, keep the vacancy rates down and make it work. It is a really important asset. We would be profligate in the extreme if we allowed that to deteriorate. It is an investment we have already made. It is an investment we must maintain, I don't think we have any alternative but to do that.
I guess the other thing is that I wanted to say is affordable housing includes affordable home ownership. With some apologies to an earlier speaker, the federal government in the 1950's invented affordable home ownership. It put a whack of money into low interest mortgages and into mortgage insurance to make our suburban communities across Canada possible. So affordable home ownership is certainly something we have invested in, it is something we have subsidized and continue to subsidize. I think the problem is that the gap between need and affordability, when it comes to affordable homeownership, has actually gotten wider. The ability of people with more modest means to own a home, as was pointed out in the statistics, has dropped dramatically since 1971 and that should be a problem for us.
Canada opted - gee, I just did a lecture on this yesterday - for a policy of homeownership. That was our way of solving our housing shortage after the Second World War, put everybody in a house, give everybody a mortgage and you don't have a problem and they tried really hard to do that and that is what we have done. In a way we have sort of backed away from that so I think an important aspect in a provincial housing policy is to look at homeownership, ensure that it is affordable and that the depth to which affordable homeownership can actually penetrate is increased in some way. I think it is an important leg in a policy that needs a whole bunch of legs to hold it up. Thank you.
MS. RICHARDS: It also needs another leg, it needs that rental market, it needs the other piece of that, particularly in the urban areas. There has been such a strong emphasis on homeownership, particularly single family housing, which is extremely expensive not only for the person buying it but also for every other service that you provide. Suburban development has been very expensive at the expense of looking at other alternative forms of housing. I think that we really do need to look at alternatives, as well as being completely obsessed with
everyone having to live in a single family home or that is the goal. That is not a goal for very many people that we see and the people looking at the emergency problem that we have right now.
That rental market is very important and we have to see how we can better provide that affordably. It probably has to come from the government and policy direction. I think it is true, we have a range of things and it is complicated and complex but we have to keep in mind that there are both opportunities and we have to provide a full range of housing types, which is not being met right now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to ask you a question. Do you think that Housing under the umbrella of the Department of Community Services is a proper fit?
MS. REED: It depends on how it is done.
MS. RICHARDS: We haven't seen it completely unfolded yet, I guess. We don't know the answer; it may have some possibilities and we would like to look at that. From probably a personal point of view and not representing anyone, I would say that it probably needs to be a department unto itself, but that is my own personal opinion and not necessarily everyone's. We would like to see how the housing piece of this unfolds after things with Community Services and the changes in community service unfolds. We would like to monitor that and look at it quite closely.
MS. RICHARDS: And there is a real need for consultation with people in communities who are in touch with people and with the larger community, ongoing consultation.
MR. WANZEL: I think housing needs a profile, I don't disagree with Patricia. On the other hand, I know very well - again from my position on the board of the housing authority - that the number of kinds of intersections between Community Services and Housing, in that regard, is tremendous. Trying to find a way to increase interdepartmental co-operation would be of an immense advantage. Now you could do that with Housing having its own profile, I am sure, but one is optimistic that maybe this will allow things to happen in a new and different way. So I can see benefits, but I don't doubt that housing does need to have a much stronger and clearer profile than it has had and that it has at present.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would just like to thank everyone for coming in today and taking time out of your busy schedules to appear before this committee, and for your presentations. Again, thank you. Maybe we can take a two minute break so we can personally thank the presenters and grab a glass of water. We will come back and finish up our two things on the agenda.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
[3:07 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[3:11 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will call the meeting back to order and we will deal with setting our next date. We had March 15th and then there was some confusion that maybe where it was the March Break, that we should put it off until March 29th.
MR. SAMSON: Mr. Chairman, I think it is safe to say that the March Break is a cherished tradition in this province, important especially for families throughout this province. I don't have any children, so I am not directly impacted by it, but I know a lot of members will and based on that, I so move that we not meet during the March Break but that we reschedule it to March 29th.
MR. DEWOLFE: I will second that, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The next one is we have a request from Mr. Murray MacDonald to address the committee. Maybe Darlene can . . .
MRS. DARLENE HENRY ( Legislative Committee Clerk): I had sent out the letter and it is up to the committee, after reading that, if you really want him to come before the committee. It has to go to a vote as per normal.
MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Chairman, what I am going to say is simply a personal point of view but we held a scheduling meeting last week in which all three caucuses submitted their own suggestions as to what they wanted to hear and then we found areas where those three areas overlapped and found a common ground and proceeded. Now, I have probably 2,000 or 3,000 constituents - well, maybe not that many - let's say 200 or 300, who probably, if you paid them to come up here to Halifax, would like to sit down there and regale the committee here for an hour their views on the issues of the day. If we open the door to one we might as well have them all. I think we should stick with the plan that we have and deal with those items that we have identified as mutual areas of interest.
MR. DEWOLFE: I agree.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
MR. HENDSBEE: Just out of curiosity, the House is opening in three weeks' time. With the meeting scheduled for March 29th, what time of day were you planning to meet with the House hours?
MRS. HENRY: Its normal scheduled time is 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Thursday mornings. It just went this afternoon because Veterans Affairs was already scheduled for this morning. Since they only meet once a month, we still have the other three Thursdays for biweekly meetings to meet in the mornings.
MR. SAMSON: You are suggesting 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Thursday mornings.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. Can we have a motion for adjournment?
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I so move.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 3:14 p.m.]