Co-op project in New Glasgow helps address demand for affordable housing

·3 min read
Hazel Stedman sits outside her apartment at Coady's Place, a new co-op housing project in New Glasgow. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)
Hazel Stedman sits outside her apartment at Coady's Place, a new co-op housing project in New Glasgow. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)

Hazel Stedman lived near Melmerby Beach for more than 50 years until she had a break-in. Police suggested she should move.

But she is a senior on a fixed income with three cats. Stedman, 92, struggled to find a place she could afford that would also accept her pets.

Then she heard the Tara Motel in New Glasgow might have space for her.

She didn't realize it at the time, but she was about to find her new home.

"When I came here, everyone was oh so wonderful," Stedman said while sitting in a lawn chair outside her front door.

"You wouldn't believe it. Sometimes when you're a senior, you don't get that. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else."

'The need is dire'

The Tara Motel has since morphed into Coady's Place, a 36-unit co-op housing site where people's rent is based on 30 per cent of their annual income. The goal is for all units to be full by Canada Day.

Filling those units won't be a problem — 122 people have applied for a space.

Diane Kelderman is president and CEO of the Nova Scotia Co-Operative Council, the group maintaining Coady's Place. She said the level of demand speaks to how much need there is for affordable housing in Nova Scotia.

"The need is dire not only in Pictou County but, you know, right across the province," she said.

Co-op housing is different than other approaches to housing development, said Kelderman, because the focus is not on the bottom line.

"It's about the mission and the vision. It's about building a sense of community. It's taking care of people."

Michael Gorman/CBC
Michael Gorman/CBC

The project is receiving support from all three levels of government. The province is putting in $3 million, there's $2 million coming from Ottawa and the Town of New Glasgow is providing a 20-year property tax exemption.

Premier Tim Houston said that as his government works to tackle the province's housing crisis it will be important to support more projects such as Coady's Place.

"We're listening to everyone who has an idea … because that's what it takes to make sure everyone is properly housed," he said.

The premier praised the way all partners came together to support the project and do so in a way that made it happen quickly and on budget.

A model to emulate

Kelderman said she believes the model can be emulated elsewhere and her organization is ready and willing to help.

No housing project is easy, but Kelderman said the council's experience is that purchasing an existing property and converting it into affordable housing is much more efficient than building new.

That said, her organization already has eyes of further development on land owned by Coady's Place that would lead to 20 duplex-style and two three-bedroom homes constructed.

"We have a model now that I think can be a bit of a template for other areas, which we're happy to share."