Things are coming together for the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society, with construction for new units at a building near Annie’s Bluff well underway – and 50 per cent of the necessary funding gathered.
In 2017, the society added much needed units to Antigonish’s affordable housing stock, building four barrier-free units at a property on 12 Hope Lane.
This year, the society is subsidizing the ongoing construction of 10 units in the same building. Board chair Colleen Cameron said the selection process is underway for tenants for those units, and the society intends to welcome new tenants by Sept. 1.
The application process for the new units closed in May. Cameron said the selection process is conducted under the auspices of a separate committee specifically assembled to choose the best tenants for the new units.
“I can’t tell if they’ve all been chosen yet, but they’re very close to doing that,” Cameron said. “They’re very close to doing that, and that’s why we expect people in on September 1.”
The society’s community navigator – Carleton MacNeil – is tasked with finding the best tenants for the new units. The navigator helps people faced with challenges find housing.
Fundraising for the new units is underway. Moving forward, Cameron said the biggest incentive for the society is to get the rest of their debt paid off, increasing their ability to obtain greater amounts of financing, to initiate more, larger affordable housing projects in the community.
“We’re in the middle of a $250,000 fundraising campaign. We recently go to the 50 per cent mark. We’re doing well, but we have more to do,” Cameron said.
In addition to building living spaces for people in need of homes, Cameron said the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society wants to take a more communal approach to housing.
Along with the 10 new units, the society aims to build a community room, as well as community garden boxes on the property outside.
“We want to be financially, environmentally and socially sustainable,” Cameron said. “The community room will contribute to the social sustainability with things going on like gatherings, and the sharing of meals – that kind of thing.”
Cameron said the original plan was to build the full 14 units in 2017, but “when we started, we realized we didn’t have enough for 14, so we went for four – and learned a lot in the process.”
After the first four were completed, Cameron said the fundraising for the next 10 began, which incorporated what members of the society and board learned through raising funds and building the first four.
Fundraising for the affordable housing projects the society has undertaken has seen a groundswell of community support, Cameron noted, referring to fundraisers such as the letter drop, dance, curling bonspiel, pool day and raffle ticket sales.
The 10 new units under construction won’t be the last thing the society creates in Antigonish. Cameron said the 14 new living spaces just off Hawthorne Street are “a drop in the bucket” as far as the local need for affordable housing is concerned.
“We need three and four-bedroom units for larger families and we need more one-bedroom ground level units in the area,” Cameron said, noting that there is a growing demand among seniors for housing stock that fits the latter of the two descriptions.
The Antigonish Affordable Housing Society has been in the community for two decades, Cameron noted, adding that there has always been a need for local affordable housing.
“Antigonish is a unique situation. It’s an affluent community with landlords buying old houses with six bedrooms and charging $500 for each room,” Cameron said.
Such a situation, she added, leads to a lot of families that don’t have the means, when the market entails rent that is that high.
“It’s a huge issue in this community. There’s significant poverty. You don’t see it, but it’s certainly there.”
Cameron said the grand opening of the new housing units will be in October. The precise date remains to be determined.