Council lobbies for quicker turn-around on available housing in Richmond County

ARICHAT: Richmond County is joining the fight for more housing.

During the virtual regular monthly meeting on April 26, Richmond Municipal Council decided to send a letter to the Cape Breton Island Housing Authority, after a request from the Strait Richmond Housing Matters Coalition.

In a letter sent two weeks ago, the coalition told council it is concerned about limited access to affordable and appropriate housing in the Strait area.

“It was recently brought to the coalition’s attention that there were several units in Richmond County that, for various reasons, appeared to have remained empty for extended periods of time, and others that were in need of upgrades that weren’t getting those upgrades, haven’t, or that took a very long time to get those upgrades. What we end up with is empty public housing,” the warden told council. “To ensure that we’re maximizing the affordable housing available to the residents of the county, learning that units, at times, are sitting empty for months and months at a time is concerning.”

The coalition asked council make regular inquiries to the housing authority, Mombourquette noted.

“To make inquiries about the units in our respective catchment areas, to determine vacancies, reasons for vacancies and to get assurance that these will be filled as soon as possible,” she said.

The coalition said if there are no seniors on the waiting list, other adults in desperate need of short-term housing can and should be considered.

District 1 Councillor Shawn Samson said the housing authority has been good to work with.

“In some cases, I have to reaffirm and to agree that some of those rooms, some of those apartments were empty for periods of time. That is concerning and it should be concerning to all of us,” he said. “We have to get people in these complexes sooner than later, for sure.”

District 3 Councillor Melanie Sampson said there are legal and regulatory challenges getting units up to standard.

“There’s a lot of layers of governmental issues, I suspect, and regulatory issues,” she stated. “We need to work with the Strait Richmond Housing Matters Coalition to continue to push them, to push the people who are sort of holding up their train.”

Sampson said in her district there are units that have been empty since March because “they just can’t get the crews in to do the work.”

“They have to finish one set of units before they can move to another, and so it’s really backlogging,” she noted. “I know in my district, there’s at least a couple of places as well that are vacant waiting.”

Deputy Warden Michael Diggdon noted that not all the housing is designated for seniors, but he agrees that the municipality can “be in the loop” with the housing authority.

“Some are designated for rent subsidies, some are designated for low income, some are designated for seniors,” he told council. “There is special housing in special places that are not just senior-approved. They’re actually waiting on families.”

Warden Amanda Mombourquette had council agree to her suggestion of sending an email to the CEO of the housing authority, as well as the Minister and Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, trying to open lines of communication and get the status of the housing situation in Richmond County.