MONTREAL, QC: The co-owner of a development in Port Hawkesbury says the amount of interest in their project demonstrates the need for housing in the region.
A joint press release from the Governments of Nova Scotia and Canada issued earlier this month said $1.2 million was earmarked under the National Housing Strategy to Breton Apartments to preserve and improve 24 vacant affordable units in Port Hawkesbury that will be rented “significantly” below the market rate. The press release said the funding targets low income and senior housing.
“We’re very happy that it’s come through, we’re very pleased and we’re pleased to be in partnership with Housing Nova Scotia,” said Breton Apartments co-owner Danita Rooyakkers.
Rooyakkers said there is a proven need for affordable and seniors’ housing in the Strait area, and this project will satisfy that demand. She said without this funding, it would have been difficult to fill this housing gap.
“There’s no problem filling them, there’s a lot of demand,” she told The Reporter. “Which was, in part, what the funding was approved on. You had to demonstrate a need for this, and there is a great need for it.”
More than five years ago, Breton Apartments purchased the four buildings on the corner of Queen and Sydney Streets, formerly known as Canso Court. Late in 2016, the company accepted applications for 12 units in the first apartment complex to be renovated.
The renovations included the replacement of windows and doors, repairing the exterior shell, upgrades to all interior finishes, flooring, plumbing and electrical work, new kitchens and bathrooms, as well as new lighting, plumbing fixtures, hot water tanks, and electrical panels.
“We got the financing for the first one, we renovated, and within a year, year-and-a-half, they were done,” Rooyakkers recalled.
As a result of a partnership with Housing Nova Scotia, half of the 48 available units were classified as affordable housing rentals.
Rooyakkers said this round of renovations include “everything,” such as new plumbing, electric, flooring, bathrooms, and kitchens.
“It’s very challenging now, with COVID, to find the labour force to proceed, but the other two buildings were on hold pending this financing, subsidization from Housing Nova Scotia, because they wanted to partner with us for the last two, but we were not permitted to start the other buildings until that was clear,” Rooyakkers explained. “We could only do remedial work, and we did remedial work by doing the roofs.”
Since the government funding is conditional on certain criteria, Rooyakkers said Breton Apartments has to now satisfy those requirements, and find workers to conduct the upgrades.
“We have to provide 50 per cent of our inventory, and that inventory has already been pre-selected, and subsidized rents for affordable housing,” said Fred Cormier, Breton Apartments Property Manager. “That will be the same criteria for the next two buildings that we’ll be doing in the fall.”
In addition to a shortage of workers, Rooyakkers said material costs and availability will affect the project schedule.
“At this point, we can’t put a timeline on it, until all the conditions are met and until we have someone contracted to do the work. We’re dealing with it in good faith and in a timely fashion,” she noted. “I don’t think it’s going to be a quick turn-around. I would like it to be, I don’t see it dragging on for years, but it’s not going to be quick to do it. We’re encountering some issues.”
Cormier said COVID-19 has created problems.
“We’ve been trying to find workers, but unfortunately, because contractors and workers have not been able to come into the province, let alone a lot of the local people would not consider going into any of the buildings as well to do light repair work,” Cormier said. “Nobody was even bidding on it. Even compared to prior to COVID-19. I’m hoping that’s going to open up.”
To qualify for affordable housing, Rooyakkers said tenants will have to fill out an application to demonstrate their need.
“It’s based on revenue, nothing to do with gender, or age, or any other aspect of demographics,” she explained.
Any contractors interested in working on the development are asked to go to the Breton Apartments web site: www.bretonapts.com, or contact Cormier at 902-595-2799 (office), 902-623-2434 (cell) or email: email@example.com.
“It’s a work in progress, we look forward to finishing it, we know the town is very happy about it, and everybody is very happy about it,” Rooyakkers added.