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Open houses on housing: Cape Breton holds public meetings to seek input


Even on a day when temperatures reached 30 C, people concerned about the housing problem in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) came to the North Sydney Firemen's Club on Wednesday to make their voices heard.

"One thing I don't like is the property taxes we're paying,” said resident Dave Reashore.

"Property taxes and the homeless around here. It's unreal,” said resident Purvis Leblanc.

"I'm interested in more affordable housing. I'm not too far away from using it myself,” said resident, Cyril Aker.

Given he has such a personal stake in the issue, Aker was glad to have a chance for some input at an open house put on as part of CBRM's Housing Strategy.

He said one issue is finding contractors for new builds.

"A lot of our local people are engaged in so much construction that it makes it hard to get employees for certain jobs, right?” Aker said.

CBRM councillor Gordon MacDonald said he gets plenty of calls about people - including international students - dealing with inflated rent prices and slum lords.

"I've seen it,” MacDonald said. “Slum lords are rampant around here, and they don't care what people are living in and that's a shame because these places are unsafe. They're even fearful to reach out to councillors and to their fire departments to look for inspections."

MacDonald added he would like to see more help from outside the municipality to deal with its housing problem.

"I want to see more housing, more housing strategies, more money from the province and the feds to deal with these issues,” he said.

The consultants helping put on the open houses said attendance was good for Tuesday's events at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney. When the public sessions wrap up, they will start looking into what they've heard.

"What sort of development incentive programs exist in other places? What could maybe work here? A couple of things like that, and during each phase of the project we'll be coming out to the public again,” said Lyndsay Francis, a registered professional planner. "We've got a survey out online. That's open until the 4th of July."

The final in the series of four open houses was set for Wednesday evening at the Miner’s Forum in Glace Bay.

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