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Affordable Antigonish: video focuses on lack of affordable housing in Nova Scotia's towns

by Robert Devet

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Meet Holly, 20 years old. In those 20 years she moved 21 times, six times since she became a single mother. Holly is always on the lookout for that rare apartment that is both affordable and livable. “It's not a good feeling,” Holly tells us in the video.

Anne and Jerry, parents of four children, struggle to make ends meet. They were given all of nine days to vacate their apartment and find a new place to live.

And then there is Fran, self-proclaimed “veteran schizophrenia sufferer”, who has to leave her home of twenty years. “I don't know how I will be able to afford it”, says Fran in the video, “money will have to come from my food budget.”

The video we are featuring spotlights the lack of affordable housing in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and what that means to people who cannot afford the rent for most apartments.

Antigonish could have been like any other small town, if it weren't for the added pressures of a student population larger than what the St. Francis Xavier University campus can accommodate.

Early on in the video, Katherine Reed, affordable housing coordinator with the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre, notes the gap between what's needed and what's available.

“We have 33 units of public housing in the town and county of Antigonish, There are more people on the wait list for those units then there are units available.”

Being on the wait list for affordable housing is not likely to bring a quick resolution.

“Once people manage to finally get in, people don't move because they need that low cost housing,” says Reed.

The video shows how Reed and the Antigonish Women's Centre are spearheading an initiative to create ten additional affordable housing units in town.

The Halifax Media Co-op talked to Peter Murphy, independent film maker, long time resident of Antigonish, and director of the video.

“We knew it had to be kind of fast moving, people have so little patience these days,” he said. “But it wasn't always easy, because some of the aspects of this subject are kind of hard to film.”

“Then when we found this family, the two or three characters to actually put a face on the problem, that became very important.”

The video was produced by Philip Girvan, who works closely with the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association ( ACALA).

ACALA TV, a branch of ACALA, hired Murphy to direct the video and acquired funding through the Catherine Donnelly Foundation.

ACALA TV's mandate is to provide job training to people who, for whatever reason, have been out of the workforce. It meets that mandate by having students work closely with professionals on videos and programming for the local Eastlink channel.

“At ACALA TV we do pretty specific videography, editing, lots of writing, you constantly have to adhere to deadlines, be able to communicate and work in a team, and all those skills are transferable, regardless of what you are interested in,” said Girvan.

“We have some learners who are quite interested in video and go on, [...] and for others it's good general experience, and they are able to put it on a resume, it's work experience.”

A second hour-long video on housing issues, directed by Deborah Jenkins, will soon be released.

Whereas the featured video focuses on the Town of Antigonish, Jenkins' hour-long video also deals with problems in Antigonish County, including a First Nation community and some of the African Nova Scotian communities in Guysborough County, Girvan told the Halifax Media Co-operative.

Girvan believes it is important that ACALA TV continue to provide a rural and small town perspective.

“I think provincial policy is tailored to Halifax, and we are hoping that people in government will get to see these videos.”



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Topics: Housing
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