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N.S. opposition argues 222 government housing units insufficient for housing crisis in the province

Nova Scotia and the federal government's joint announcement to construct more than 220 public housing units on Wednesday is looked at as a step forward in the right direction, but critics say that number falls short of what's needed to address the housing crisis.

"It's great to see the Progressive Conservative government do a 180 on where they were even just two or three weeks ago," said Halifax Regional Municipality Councillor Waye Mason.

When it comes to fixing the housing crisis, Premier Tim Houston's mantra has always been to build more housing but until now, the Houston government and those before it, have declined to build more public housing - which means new units haven't gone up since the mid-nineties.

Mason warns that relying on the market alone will not deliver what's really needed when it comes to creating more affordable housing options.

"The province has stepped in with 222 units, that's a start but it probably needs to be more close to a thousand or two thousand (units) just this year," said Mason. "So we need to see a much bigger investment."

Finance Minister Allan MacMaster was asked Thursday about the housing announcement and measures to spur housing development and pointed to a recent program that incentivizes skilled tradespeople to work in Nova Scotia, and the announcement made earlier this week, where the Houston government would remove the HST costs on all new rental builds.

Despite all that, there's a massive labour shortage that is slowing development.

"We see that (labour shortage) with our efforts to build hospitals and schools, there are delays because of a lack of labour availability but all we can do is keep trying," said MacMaster.

The construction industry is struggling to keep up with the demand, as there are simply not enough tradespeople to go around.

"If we had three thousand bodies today I'm pretty sure they would all find work, provided they meet the right criteria," said Duncan Williams, the president & CEO of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia president

The construction association says there are several immediate measures the province can take to spur development and increase the number of those working in the skilled trades.

One way to achieve this is by increasing the journeyperson to apprenticeship ratio from it's current 1:2 ratio. Williams proposes raising the ratio to 1:3 wherever trades would allow.

"This would help increase the workforce in the next 18 months," said Williams. "It's just one small lever and we need it now." Top Stories

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