Changes to Public Housing Program

20 June 2024 | 11:00 AM

Changes to the Nova Scotia public housing program will ensure all public housing tenants’ rents are calculated fairly and consistently.

Over the next four years, tenants who have been paying a fixed rent amount will move to the rent-geared-to-income model, with tenants paying no more than 30 per cent of their income towards rent. This is the model most tenants living in Nova Scotia’s more than 11,200 public housing units use to pay rent.

“We have a duty to ensure that Nova Scotians who need public housing are treated with fairness and consistency. We know that this will be an adjustment for tenants, and that’s why we are phasing in the changes over four years,” said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr. “We are taking significant steps to build more public housing and modernize the public housing program to respond to our changing economic landscape and the diverse needs of our growing population.”

Beginning in November, the 13 per cent of public housing tenants who are not currently paying rent based on their gross annual income and household size will be moved to that model.

Tenants with higher incomes will see their rent increase by five per cent a year for the first three years. In the fourth year, their rent will increase to the full figure, which is typically 30 per cent of gross income for single people and 25 per cent for families.

For tenants with lower incomes, the rent will decrease. Some tenants may also see utility costs decrease as the Nova Scotia Public Housing Agency pays the heating costs for those on the rent-geared-to-income model.

People receiving income assistance will not see a change in their rent model; they will continue to pay rental rates based on the number of dependents in their household.

The Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency is also introducing new lease rules for all its tenants to ensure consistency across the province. All public housing tenants will receive a new lease package and will be required to report their household income every year to remain eligible for public housing.

The changes are based on recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General June 2022 report, Oversight and Management of Government Owned Public Housing, which found lease administration policies were outdated and the eligibility review process was inconsistent across the province. 

Rental rates of no more than 30 per cent of gross household income are deemed affordable by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Rent geared to income is the rent model used by most public housing providers across Canada.

More than 17,500 Nova Scotians live in public housing.

Quick Facts:

  • 1,445 public housing tenants will transition to the rent-geared-to-income model over the next four years
  • currently, average tenant income is $22,000, and average rent is $500 per month
  • in September 2023, the Province announced 222 new units, to be built at existing public housing sites in Lower Sackville, Halifax, Kentville, Bridgewater, Glace Bay, Grand Étang and Bible Hill
  • the Province is creating 51 new modular public housing units in Glace Bay, Ingonish, Port Hawkesbury, Antigonish, Amherst, Springhill, Westville, Barrington, Shelburne, Digby, Liverpool and Wedgeport
  • the Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency was created in December 2022, bringing together the five former housing authorities