Audit finds social housing in NS are underutilized as almost 6,000 people are on the waiting list – Halifax

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Nova Scotia’s auditor general says provincial government oversight of regional housing authorities is not adequate, citing lack of accountability as nearly 6,000 people wait for public housing

In a report released Tuesday, Auditor General Kim Adair said the province does not have « an effective governance structure in place for public housing. »

According to a news release, there are more than 11,000 social housing units in the province, the majority in the Halifax and Cape Breton Island area.

With 6,000 housing seekers on a waiting list since December 2021, the report notes that at least 1,500 are underutilized.

“It is important that eligible Nova Scotians have access to social housing in an equitable, consistent and timely manner, which ensures that existing social housing is used to its fullest potential,” Adair said in the statement.

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The audit said the average waiting time for public housing is around two years, although some are waiting much longer.

The problem, according to the report, is that regional housing authorities do not effectively manage tenant application and placement processes for public housing.

« This has resulted in tenants living in units that exceed their size requirements, while families remain on the waiting list, » the statement read.

This is also why so many units remain underutilized or vacant.

“When homes are vacated, housing authorities have too often missed the target of getting new tenants to move in.”

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The audit found that while the goal is to move tenants within 60 days, it takes more than double that.

« There are few performance metrics, and no clear accountability or action taken when goals are not met. »

Adair made 20 recommendations in the report. These include: an effective governance structure, a “fair and consistent” application process, and an accurate waiting list system.

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In a news release Tuesday morning, the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing said it accepted all of the recommendations.

“We owe it to all Nova Scotians to ensure that we manage our social housing effectively and efficiently,” reads a statement from Minister John Lohr.

« While the issues did not develop overnight and we know there is much to improve, we are taking immediate action to make things better. »

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Lohr said in the statement that progress has already been made and there are plans to « modernize operations » to help more people.

The ministry has taken steps to reduce the waiting time and turnaround time for vacant units.

« Other actions will take longer, such as implementing a new customer service and asset management system and establishing a new governance model. »

Lohr said he would create a new entity to provide independent oversight and governance of public housing.

« This entity will be responsible for and focus solely on improving social housing for Nova Scotians across the province, » the statement read.

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The Auditor General said that in the 2020-21 fiscal year, the provincial government spent just over $54 million on its five regional housing authorities, about one-third of the $153 million operating cost. dollars.

Tenant rents covered $67 million, and the remaining $31 million was shared between the federal and municipal governments.

— with files from The Canadian Press.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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