ANTIGONISH: The Extension Department at StFX University is calling on all members of the non-profit and co-operative housing sector to band together to focus on strengthening the provincial community housing sector.

In partnership with the Community Housing Transformation Centre, the Extension Department launched “Build Together: Strengthening the Community Housing Sector” in Nova Scotia on March 15.

Pauline MacIntosh, a program staff member with the extension department, told The Reporter they hope to engage members of the sector in a discussion about what’s working really well for them, where they’re seeing success, and how they can strengthen and leverage those assets.

“Together, we have an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the community housing sector in Nova Scotia, which plays a huge role in ensuring people living on low income in our province have adequate housing,” MacIntosh said. “It is critical to engage with the community housing sector in Nova Scotia at this time to see how it can best be supported to do its work better and faster for greater positive impact.”

The project will engage members of the community housing sector in a process aimed at supporting and strengthening the sector in Nova Scotia by sharing successes, recognizing strengths and challenges, identifying areas for capacity enhancement, and developing ways of working together for greater collective impact.

The Community Housing Transformation Centre has granted $100,000 to not only strengthen the sector, but also to offer resources and support to bring this project forward.

“With a housing crisis now plaguing most major cities in Canada, we stand at an absolutely pivotal crossroad in developing projects and policies that will pave the way for the future of community housing,” Renée Hébert, the centre’s program manager for the Maritimes said. “When several organizations within the community housing sector in Nova Scotia expressed a need to organize and work together to create a provincial structure, it was imperative the centre lends its support.”

To launch the engagement process, people working and volunteering in non-profit and co-operative housing groups across the province are being asked to complete a survey. Those who participate will be able to enter their name in a draw to win one of two $250 donations to a community housing group of their choice.

A core element of the Build Together project, MacIntosh said is the schedule of approximately 20 engagement sessions which will begin on April 6, for non-profit and co-operative housing groups in Nova Scotia, including sessions for groups focused on housing for Indigenous peoples, persons of African descent, the LGBTQQIP2SAA community, and others.

“We’re really hoping to speak with underrepresented groups, who aren’t necessarily part of the conversation,” she said. “We’ll work really hard to make connections and build relationships with these communities that really need to have a voice in this discussion.”

Based on the findings of the engagement process, the group aims to define sector priorities and determine a sustainable model for moving forward in tandem.

MacIntosh advised while there are different groups doing pockets of work throughout the province, including the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society, the Strait Richmond Housing Matters Coalition, and the Guysborough County Housing Network, many of them are working in isolation and there’s not a lot of connection between the various groups.

“We could be achieving more, if we were better connected,” she said. “Our goal is that the engagement process will lead to a better supported, connected, and more unified community housing sector in Nova Scotia.”

If the groups and organizations who are working to create and provide more housing for people who need it, if the community housing sector is successful, MacIntosh explained there will be more safe, affordable, housing for people who need it.

“The strength of the outcome from this project, will depend on the strength of the input, so we really, really want to encourage people involved in community or co-op housing, whether they’re sitting on a board, working for an organization, whether they are a group of interested community people who have come together to talk about it, we really would like to hear from them,” she said. “Though both the survey and through community engagement sessions to share what they know and to hear form others.”

For those interested in participating in the survey and engagements sessions, they can do so by visiting: www.coady.stfx.ca/extension/build-together.