Fed up with the high cost of rental housing, a woman from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, renovates an old school bus into her permanent home.
Dayle Crouse left her last rental in May because she was looking for something smaller and cheaper. Not finding a new place in her price range, she decided to spend the summer in a tent at a campsite with her two children.
When she wasn’t at her job at a roaster in Lunenburg, Crouse worked on repairing the bus, which included gutting the interior. The next step will be to insulate the floors, ceiling and walls to make the bus suitable for winter.
Crouse told CBC radio Main Street she knows many people who have well-paying full-time jobs and are struggling to find affordable housing in the province.
“I see so many people on Facebook and they’re like ‘Find a job, stop laughing’… and that’s not the problem,” she said.
“I just want them to know that it affects their neighbors, their children, their spouses, people with mental health issues, and housing is health.”
Reasonable housing costs were once a selling point for living in Nova Scotia, but prices have skyrocketed in recent years in a housing stock that has not kept up with population growth.
Advocates and tenants have sounded the alarm bells on the state of the housing market, including in the recent provincial elections.
The issue gained further public attention in mid-August when Halifax police sprayed cayenne pepper and arrested protesters in the city’s downtown area as authorities cleared dozens of tents and docks. ‘temporary shelters from camps in local parks and green spaces.
Crouse said all levels of government need to think about creative solutions to the affordable housing shortage.
What the city does
Lunenburg Mayor Matt Risser said the demand for housing in Lunenburg exceeds supply.
“I think it’s obviously incredibly unfortunate that people have to do this stuff to find adequate and affordable housing,” he said.
Risser said housing is a provincial responsibility, but the city is doing what it can to help.
“It is a complex and complicated problem and there is no silver bullet,” he said. “The main way we as a municipality can solve this problem is through planning, zoning and land use, and that’s what we are doing. “
Risser said the city recently overhauled its municipal planning strategy, land use bylaws and ancillary bylaws. He said these measures will lead to an increase in the supply of housing in Lunenburg, ranging from mid-rise high-density units to secondary suites in established neighborhoods.
Province plans to expand rent control
Nova Scotia Housing Minister John Lohr said last week his government was considering expanding rent controls beyond the current state of emergency.
“We’re looking at possible solutions, I’m looking at that,” Lohr told reporters after a cabinet meeting Thursday in Halifax.
Main Street NS11:48Hear from a Lunenburg resident who settles in from an old school bus
“I am very concerned about what I think are huge rent increases and we are looking at all of our options.”
Lohr said he was continuing to meet with stakeholders and would explore all possibilities for help.
Crouse said she had spent the past two years researching how to renovate the “schoolchildren”. She likes the idea of living off the grid and taking a smaller footprint, but isn’t sure she would have taken the plunge and bought a school bus if rental prices had been more reasonable.
“It’s hard to take the plunge when you have a safety net. I didn’t have a safety net,” she said.
Rules for living on a full-time bus vary depending on where you live in the province, and Crouse admits she has more research to do on the rules in Lunenburg.
She plans to spend the winter in a cabin and continue renovating the bus. She hopes he will be ready by next summer.
“If that fails, so what?” Said Crouse. “Because I don’t have anything else anyway so let’s do it, with wild abandon.”