ANTIGONISH: A program staff member at the Coady Institute, who leads the community housing program, says the formation of a provincial non-profit housing association will provide a means for communication and collaboration to be created among non-profit housing providers in the province and the housing groups, networks, and coalitions that support their work.

The Nova Scotia Non-Profit Housing Association (NSNPHA) will work to promote the mobilization, empowerment, growth, and sustainability of non-profit housing providers and the groups, networks, and coalitions that support their work to respond to the need for safe, accessible, and affordable housing throughout the province.

The new provincial association aimed to strengthen the community housing sector in Nova Scotia was formed following two days of meetings on Oct. 26 and 27 at StFX University.

“In 2021, we started a process of community engagement across the province, in partnership with the Community Housing Transformation Centre, which is a pan-Canadian organization,” Pauline MacIntosh told The Reporter in an interview. “We launched a project called ‘Build Together’; the objective of this project was to strengthen the community housing sector in Nova Scotia. In Phase 1, we did four province wide engagement processes trying to identify, who in fact, are doing non-profit housing work in the province, what the strengths of this sector are, where the sector needs to build capacity.”

In a media release, Community Housing Transformation Centre Executive Director Stéphan Corriveau said the Antigonish meeting was inspiring.

“It opened all kinds of new avenues for the future of community housing in Nova Scotia,” Corriveau said. “A province wide not-for-profit housing association is a significant vehicle for leveraging knowledge and capacity, ultimately allowing for a more robust and impactful sector. It represents a meaningful step towards solving the housing crisis.”

MacIntosh suggested it also looked at a number of other items, including changes these organizations would like to see that would help them do their work more efficiently.

“This really called for some form of provincial organization,” MacIntosh said. “In Phase 2, we extended the work to explore with people how it could actually put this organization in place and what it would look like.”

The NSNPHA founding meeting hosted more than 80 attendees, both in-person and virtually, as they worked though governance models, sustainability and strategic planning, DEID (diversity, equity, inclusion, and decolonization), identifying organizational values, composing regional housing networks, and endorsing an interim board of directors for the association.

“So now we have a group of 13 people who are working to build this organization on a really solid foundation,” MacIntosh said. “This organization will be an association of members, so there hasn’t been an organization that was member-based, certainly not in recent history. This is an organization of non-profit housing providers, as well as the informal housing groups, networks and coalitions that support their work.”

As for the motivation behind establishing the NSNPHA, she suggested if someone had a message they wanted to send to organizations in the province doing non-profit housing, prior to this project, there was no one place to send that message.

“That’s not to say that in certain regions, that groups aren’t connected, but there’s nothing connecting them across the province,” MacIntosh said. “So part of our work has been creating an inventory, who’s doing the work, what they’re doing and where they’re doing it; part of the reason for doing this, was to figure out where these organizations are and how they could be supported.”

Explaining the work started under the StFX Extension Department banner, MacIntosh noted that in 2018 they partnered with a local housing organization to host a provincial people’s school on affordable housing, and in 2019, partnering with two local housing organizations, they hosted a second people’s school on building research capacity to achieve housing goals.

“There were certainly people across the province who were asking for the creation of a provincial association and when this came to the forefront, we were also looking to do some more work in the area, so it became a natural fit,” she said. “Midway through the work, the university decided to merge the Coady International Institute and the StFX Extension Department and together they are called Coady Institute; so it’s really been building off the work of the StFX Extension Department.”

In addition to the 13 volunteer individuals who will sit on the interim board of directors, MacIntosh explained there are an additional 20 people who are working alongside the team on three collaborative teams working on different elements of the foundation.

The organization’s view is to have their inaugural AGM in April 2023, at which time a permanent board of directors will be elected, noted MacIntosh.

“I will continue to support the organization, certainly over the next few months and to help bring the findings of the Build Together process to these 33 people who are involved in building the organization and putting it on a sure footing,” she said. “There’s a fair bit of work that remains and we see the provinces across Canada that do have provincial associations seem to benefit quite significantly from their existence.”

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Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.