Nova Scotians hoping to build strong bridges in community housing sector

With the active support of the Community Housing Transformation Centre and St. Francis Xavier University’s Extension Department, Nova Scotia’s non-profit and co-operative housing groups are exploring the need and desire to strengthen their individual and collective capacity to further develop the sector.

Unlike Québec, Ontario and British Columbia, which have long traditions of cooperation and collaboration in the community housing sector, the province of Nova Scotia has pressing housing needs, but little connection among local housing groups, coalitions, and organizations. For now. But if a core group of community housing supporters in the province gets its wish, by 2022, the portrait could be very different.

That’s why the Community Housing Transformation Centre has been recruited as an independent facilitator for an engagement project, partnering with the St. Francis Xavier University Extension Department.

Build together: Strengthening the Community Housing Sector in Nova Scotia was granted $100,000 by the Centre (half of the project’s $207,000 budget) from its Sectoral Transformation Fund. Mission No. 1? To reach out to community housing advocates and providers in all corners of the province and solicit their participation in the project.

“The project will provide the community housing sector with opportunities to share experiences, successes, challenges, and ideas for working together,” says the grant application. The goals include:

  • building an understanding of the supports and resources required to develop and sustain community-housing programs, projects, and services;
  • strengthening the provincial voice when advocating for supports, funding, research, and capital investment in community-based housing solutions; and
  • providing Nova Scotian organizations and institutions with a means to engage community-housing groups and organizations, disseminate information, share opportunities, and explore common objectives.

The StFX Extension Department’s participation is invaluable, says Renée Hébert, the Centre’s Maritimes program manager. “Their roots in Nova Scotia are deep. They know the region, they know the people, and they have extensive experience in the critical social and economic issues facing the Atlantic provinces.”

“They also have a long history of working with local communities to help them recognize their strengths and to build on them. We couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

Extension Department lead Pauline MacIntosh is enthusiastic about the project’s potential.

“The Build Together project will provide an opportunity for people working in the community housing sector in Nova Scotia to have a voice and to make connections with others doing similar work,” she notes.

“This is a time to say what is working well, where capacity can be strengthened, and what kinds of supports would help the sector achieve more, better, and faster. Throughout the Build Together project, we expect to get a clear sense of whether members want to move forward together and if they do, what form they wish to take.”

MacIntosh stresses the importance of hearing directly from those working to ensure adequate, safe, and affordable housing for Nova Scotians on low incomes. “We intend to open spaces in which members of the [community] can articulate their vision for the sector and what supports and structures, if any, would help them achieve it.”

Since reaching out to housing groups to see who’s out there and to encourage involvement is an essential first step, the Build Together project launched its own webpage March 15.

The page, which is part of the StFX Extension website, will be a repository for the project’s findings, including monthly updates, survey and sector-consultation findings, and research related to community-housing sector models and organizations elsewhere in Canada.

“We are also very interested in hearing other ways the web page can be used to support the work of the sector,” MacIntosh adds.

For more information, go to the Build Together web page or email Pauline MacIntosh or Renée Hébert.

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