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New Co-op to Build Affordable Homes in Rural Nova Scotia

Published November 29, 2023

In Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Queens Neighbourhood Co-operative Housing (QNCH) shows how co-op housing can help meet the need for affordable housing in Canada’s rural areas. Targeting 100 new homes in the next five years, the co-op has its first development project of 26 units well underway.

“For CHF Canada, Co-op Housing for All means that co-ops must be developed not just in cities, but everywhere that affordable housing is in short supply, including rural Canada,” says Ami Patel, CHF Canada’s Director of Development.  “QNCH is a story about how local people can make that happen.”

The Queens Care Society (QCS) was founded in 2015 as an advocacy group to improve services for seniors in Queens County, in South-Central Nova Scotia. Thinly populated, it stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Annapolis Valley. Liverpool, its largest town, has a population of 2,500.

A 2016 resident survey showed QCS that access to transit and affordable housing were two important hardships for local seniors. After organizing a rural transportation system, the Society turned its attention to housing, and formed a committee to look for ways to build and buy housing. With help from Earl Mielke of Inclusive Homes Consulting, the group reached out to CHF Canada for guidance and chose to incorporate as a housing co-operative.

Retired public servant Patti Pike is the co-op’s President. “Our survey told us that many local seniors needed affordable housing. We looked for the best local experts and leaders to serve on our board, and we found them,” she says. “Because we are rooted in the community, we’ve had fantastic ongoing support from the Region of Queens Municipality and our provincial  MLA Kim Masland.”

In February 2022 the co-op received a startup grant from the province’s Community Housing Capacity Building Program. Later in 2022, the Region of Queens Municipality sold four adjacent Liverpool lots to QNCH. In May of this year, the co-op secured a grant from council for pre-development costs, along with higher density zoning so that 26 units can be built on the site. Through the Community Housing Transformation Centre, the co-op is also using funding from the province’s Community Housing Growth Fund for planning and capacity building.

The cost of the development is roughly estimated at $6 million. The co-op has engaged Nova Scotia-based design firm, Passive Design Solutions (www.passivedesign.ca) to plan an accessible community of “passive” homes with enough onsite solar energy production to completely offset households’ power usage.

“The co-op development model used in Nova Scotia is a tried-and-true approach,” says Earl Mielke. “Thanks to CHF Canada, new co-ops don’t have to start from scratch in organizing their work. They can move much faster using a known development process that is attractive to multiple funding partners.”

Just like the transit system, the new co-op will not be exclusively for seniors. “We focus on seniors, but other generations here also need affordable housing,” says Patti Pike. “Our goal is safe, affordable, environmentally friendly housing that can accommodate people who need it – age is just one factor. The fact that co-op housing serves a mix of incomes is also important for support from residents in the neighbourhood. It will also play a part in maintaining a healthy community.”

The co-op’s vision is to build 100 units in the next five years. “We are already looking at other sites,” says Patti Pike.

“Canada’s affordable housing crisis isn’t just in the big cities,” says Karen Brodeur, CHF Canada’s Regional Manager, Atlantic. “Co-ops like QNCH, and two new Compass Nova Scotia redevelopments in Digby and Shelburne to be built next year, make sense for rural Canada. When small co-op developments include established approaches that ensure financial and community sustainability, they can help solve affordable housing shortages everywhere in Canada.”

Photo/image credits: Passive Design Solutions


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