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Cape Breton Regional Municipality short 1,000 housing units and counting


The Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) is about 1,000 housing units short of what it needs, and the areas mayor is among those who aren't surprised.

"This has become an issue that we not only see in data, but we're seeing in front of our eyes every single day,” said CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall-Merrill.

The Nova Scotia housing needs assessment released earlier in the week also warns that number in CBRM could more than double over the next decade if the pace of housing development doesn't pick up.

McDougall-Merrill said as the area’s population continues to grow, more needs to be spent on public housing.

"You're only going to see these numbers as the provincial government continues to pursue their doubling of the population for the province, and so they need to right now put their money where their mouth is and invest in public housing,” she said.

"It's no surprise. We have been witnessing that for the last two years. Students always find it a hard time to find housing here."

At Cape Breton University, where international student numbers have grown by thousands in recent years, the new housing numbers also hit home.

"It's no surprise,” said Cape Breton University Students' Union president Samilpreet Singh Chatha. “We have been witnessing that for the last two years. Students always find it a hard time to find housing here."

There are plans for some new residence space at CBU, but students from abroad will soon need to have more money up front to study anywhere in Canada according to a federal announcement on Thursday.

"A single applicant will need to show that they have $20,000 - $20,635 - in funds to support themselves in Canada, moving up from $10,000,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship, Marc Miller.

The students union president says that make some potential newcomers think twice.

"It's going to affect enrolment a lot,” Singh Chatha said.

In the shorter term, the need for housing in CBRM stands to become more stark in about nine months' time, when the new NSCC campus on the Sydney waterfront opens for its first classes in the fall.

The new medical school at CBU is on the horizon, too.

Some affordable housing builds in the municipality have broken ground already, while others, like the Tartan Downs project, still need to get off the ground.

"That's why we have been actively involved in the negotiations for housing accelerator fund money, but really that's one aspect of the housing that is needed,” McDougall-Merrill said.

An affordable housing task force is also expected to report to council in the New Year.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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