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Why millions, land and a desire to build affordable housing may not be enough


CBC News


Elizabeth McMillan


Even when some things go right, creating new affordable housing involves a lot of waiting and hoping.

“The goal, really, is to have it very much independently, financially viable at the get-go and to have it mixed income and family oriented,” said Jim Graham executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, or AHANS .

But the $12 million project stalled as the association faced the same problem that many other non-profits have encountered.

Despite having the land and some government money, AHANS struggled to convince a financial institution to provide the millions in loans needed to get shovels in the ground.

Non-profit organizations, co-operatives and private developers must go through a sometimes arduous process to try to secure funding, at a time when many cities, including Halifax, face a crisis of low rental vacancies.

Unlike private developers that can draw on equity from other properties, non-profits often struggle to do the same.

Even so, they must still go through the same process to secure loans as any other company looking to build residential units.

Graham said it would “fundamentally change the ability of non-profits to deliver” new housing if they could secure debt financing through the provincial government instead of a bank, but that option is not currently available.

“If we were looking at that kind of mortgage financing, where you got a little bit of a lower rate fixed for 15 years, from a non-profit perspective, that’s huge,” he said.

Krista Higdon, a spokesperson with Nova Scotia’s Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said in email such a program is being considered by the province.

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