Angela Budge was a single mother of three children under five by the age of 21.
She applied for social assistance when her partner abruptly left, leaving her solely responsible for providing, and caring, for her children. She also quit her job to look after her children full-time since she could not afford childcare.
Budge often chose to either pay her utility bills or buy food for her kids until a subsidized apartment became open. Her rent became more affordable, and she was able to attend school and complete a nursing program at NSCC Kingstec.
“Where would I be today without that silver lining received back in 2006 of the gift of an affordable place to live? I’m not sure,” she said.
Budge presented her case before the Town of Kentville’s council advisory committee on Feb. 11 after members voted unanimously against rezoning three lots at 118 Oakdene Avenue in North Kentville, where Open Arms had proposed developing affordable housing units.
The vote was based on a recommendation from the town’s Planning and Development department, which stated that rezoning the lots from low-density R1 and R2 zones to a high-density R4 zone to allow for the proposed 60 dwelling units within five buildings did not meet the intent of the town’s municipal planning strategy, or MPS, because of the lack of a mid-density R3 buffer zone.
“When we look at the request for a rezoning, we have to look at the municipal planning strategy and really understand [its] intent for the rezoning applications,” said department director Beverly Gentleman.
“[This development] does not meet the overall residential goal to protect the character and development form of established residential neighbourhoods.”
Gentleman also advised council to consider its “limited ability” to require any developer to adhere to design within proposed development, and pointed out factors like the lack of a maximum height requirement.
“Essentially, if the rezoning is approved, the development of the property is regulated only by the zone requirements of the land-use bylaw, and not necessarily what was presented in the application,” says Gentleman.
“The applicant is not legally bound to build the project as presented, but would only be required to meet the minimum requirements.”
Budge was one of several community members who voiced their disagreement with these statements after the meeting.
She said as a homeowner in North Kentville near Oakdene Avenue, she has “no problem” with the development and supports it as an opportunity for people who need financial support.
“If we leave people in a system that keeps them broke... how do we expect them to ever get out?” she said.
“I am extremely sad that, in this day and age, we are still able to use the excuse of stigma surrounding low-income individuals to halt a project that could be so beneficial.”
Kings County municipal councillor and Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Card author Pauline Raven also attended the meeting and voiced concern the town is allowing its MPS intent to overshadow the development opportunity.
“I think you could make an exception in your MPS... because affordable housing only comes up because of things like Open Arms, and things like that old church property sitting there in the middle of a residential neighbourhood,” she said.
“I really think you need to take another look at this.”
Open Arms volunteer and Coldbrook resident Kathy Marshall also opposed the voting results and criticized the council for what she interpreted as suggestions that the development would harm existing neighbourhoods.
“These people are not riff-raff… they want jobs, they need the work and, if they could, they would have proper housing. They are amazing people, and they just want a life – they really do,” she said.
Gentleman answered Deputy Mayor Cate Savage’s question following the vote on whether the results can be appealed and confirmed that it is possible.