Sun. Sep 24th, 2023
    Nova Scotia Struggles to Build Enough Housing to Meet Population Demand

    Nova Scotia is facing a housing crisis as the province’s population continues to grow at a record-setting pace. The government’s goal of doubling the population to two million by 2060 raises the question of where all these people will live. Construction and development professionals warn that Nova Scotia is not building housing quickly enough to meet the demand, and drastic shifts will be necessary to accommodate future population growth.

    After years of limited growth, Nova Scotia has experienced a surge in population in recent years, primarily due to international immigration and intra-provincial migration. Since 2015, the province has added nearly 111,000 new residents, accounting for over 10% of the current population. However, this population increase has coincided with a housing shortage. Vacancy rates are low, rents are climbing, and homelessness rates are doubling in urban areas.

    Data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reveals that housing starts in Nova Scotia peaked in 2021 at 5,310 units and then declined to 4,877 units last year. This number includes the construction of single-family homes, semi-detached and row homes, and apartments. However, industry professionals argue that this number needs to triple to adequately accommodate the projected population growth. They estimate that the province would require around 15,000 to 16,000 units per year to accommodate a doubled population.

    Premier Tim Houston acknowledges the challenges posed by this rapid growth and believes that doubling the population will help address demographic issues and make the province younger. The government anticipates that continued growth will bring in more tax revenue, new businesses and jobs, improved infrastructure, and greater diversity. While the premier’s campaign focused on fixing healthcare, housing has emerged as a pressing issue.

    The provincial government has stated that the solution to the housing crisis lies with private and non-profit developers. The focus is on programs like the Community Housing Acquisition Program and the land for housing initiative to increase affordable housing stock. In addition, Premier Houston suggests that training and attracting more tradespeople could help combat the shortage of housing.

    However, developers face several barriers, including labor shortages, higher interest rates, and the rising cost of construction. Non-profit developers encounter lengthy approval processes and challenges in securing sufficient funding to meet government requirements. Private developers also struggle with bureaucracy and taxes. While the federal government has promised to remove the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from the construction of new rental apartments, developers are still looking for additional solutions. They believe that all levels of government, along with private and non-profit developers, need to work together to address the housing crisis.


    – CBC Nova Scotia: This story is part of an ongoing CBC Nova Scotia series examining how the province is managing its record-setting population boom after decades of limited growth.