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Halifax, province insist they can’t help Ocean Breeze Village tenants

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Ocean Breeze Village tenants have been living under uncertain circumstances since the Dartmouth, N.S., property was bought by developers three years ago.

With every new phase of development, more tenants are being forced to leave their homes.

“From day one as soon as this place was sold the writing was on the wall that these folks will have to move,” said Tony Mancini, councillor of the Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East area. “I’ve talked to a few of them and I can see it in their eyes. They’re scared.”

Rents at the complex go anywhere from $800 to $1,400 a month.

Mancini said it is concerning for the city to see so many people looking for rentals.

“We’re not talking about one building, but multiple buildings. Hundreds of people that will be displaced. The most vulnerable will be the ones to pay the price right away.”

The province said it has no control over the redevelopment plans.

“A private entity owns it so they have plans for the property. We know the solution to the housing crisis is more housing so we’ve been very focused on housing,” said premier Tim Houston. “We are working hard to fix it. Some of the policy that we’ve put in place [includes] making Crown land available for housing developments and receiving proposals on that.”

The province said it has been communicating with developers about programs like CMHC to provide affordable housing, but has not looked at mandating companies to include affordable housing.

“I don’t know if we actually have the tools to do that. I mean there’s many things that we’re doing in this front to keep affordability and in fact we’ve got a massive five-year $1.7 billion plan, part of that is 217,250 affordable units in that plan,” said John Lohr, minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

However, the city believes the province can do more.

“The province has a budget of $1 billion, and the municipality has $1 million, so we really don’t have the resources,” said Mancini. “The province is doing well financially because of the growth taking place. The municipality hasn’t caught up to that benefit. We’ll get that once many of these buildings you, but until then we just don’t have the resources to be able to do with it.

So far, a few of the tenants have left and moved out of the area, while others have been relocated to other vacant apartments in the complex, but it is temporary.

In an email to CTV News, the owner of the property, Basin Heights Community Limited Partnerships (Basin Heights) said, “two vacant lots at the community’s entry are ready for developments. Units in the second phase are now vacant and demolition will be done later this month. Relocations are underway for residents affected by the third phase of the redevelopment. This process involves relocating numerous residents within the community or financially assisting those who choose to move outside the complex early.”

Some of the residents will not need to leave at the end of 2024.

“We worked hard to free up other apartments in later phases to accommodate long-term residents who choose to stay,” said Basin Heights. “We hope to include clauses in the sales agreements with builders requiring them to explore these programs and give priority to current Ocean Breeze community members in the new buildings.”

In the meantime, the province is encouraging tenants to look at programs for support.

“Depending on their income and their age they may be eligible to apply for public housing,” said Lohr.

The property owners said the redevelopment of Ocean Breeze will unfold in phases spanning years.

“Major infrastructure upgrades are required to support the redevelopment. Later this month we will start significant infrastructure renewal near the community’s entrance and demolition of buildings in phase 2.”

The property owners told CTV News the redevelopment aims to provide more than ten times the current amount of housing in the area.

In the meantime, it’s advising tenants to plan their relocation sooner rather than later so that people with fewer options can stay longer.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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