Concerns grow over possible housing crisis in Cape Breton

The housing crunch is having an impact throughout the Maritimes. In Cape Breton, affordable housing proponents are calling for action as population figures jump in the Sydney area.

Construction of the new NSCC is well underway, and it's creating economic optimism that the Cape Breton Regional Municipality hasn't seen in years.

“We can try to bring as many people here as we want and that's great because we need that population growth, but if we don't have anywhere to put people, we're going to run into some major issues,” said Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jenna Lahey

According to the latest census data, Sydney, N.S. saw a 2.6 per cent population increase in the past five years.

“If we continue to see that kind of growth, i think we're going to have some challenges, particularly around housing and health care,” said Lahey

The legislature’s standing committee on community services looked at housing options in Cape Breton at a meeting in Halifax Tuesday.

“There are a number of factors driving this and unfortunately there's no one solution. We are working with private and non-profit partners on a number of fronts in order to address Nova Scotia's diverse housing needs,” said Nova Scotia Municipal Affairs and Housing Deputy Minister Paul LaFleche

Cape Breton University purchased the former ‘Tartan Downs’ in 2019. The plan is to soon build 430 rental units made up of townhouses, single-family dwellings and apartment buildings.

The major project will be done in phases, as student numbers rapidly increase at the university.

“In 2018 we started to see extreme growth from India. We went from 75 students to a little over 2500 in a period of three years,” said Cape Breton University Director of Student Affairs John Mayich

Still, NDP MLA for Cape Breton Centre Kendra Coombes says there's is high demand right now for public housing in CBRM, and she feels the province isn't doing enough to make this issue a priority.

“We have a high wait list of 2.5 years for Cape Breton and 18.3 percent of people have been denied housing in Cape Breton,” added Coombes

The hot housing market and rising costs are also complicating things, this as Cape Breton sees its first population spike in years.