Nova Scotia

CBRM to spend $6.6M in federal dollars for new housing in Sydney

Cape Breton Regional Municipality has awarded about half of its $11.4 million in federal funding to two developers for projects that are expected to add nearly 300 units to the housing stock in Sydney, N.S.

CBRM announced Wednesday that $5.4 million would go to Cape Breton University, which plans to build 145 units at the former Tartan Downs horse racing track, and another $1.2 million to Joneljim Concrete Construction, which plans to add 144 units to its existing Cossitt Heights subdivision.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said the federal funding is intended to get housing built quickly, and it’s working.

“It’s exciting to see something that we’ve seen on paper come to life and we’re going to see some shovels in the ground soon,” she said after the announcement was made on the downtown waterfront boardwalk.

“Housing is in such need right now, we’re seeing groundwork happen before permits are even issued.”

Joneljim Concrete Construction president Jim Kehoe said he had his workers digging new ground almost immediately after learning of the new funding.

‘The next day we started’

“The next day we started,” he said. “The federal government, they wanted projects that [were] ready to start, shovels in the ground kind of thing. We gave them that.”

The Sydney River company is using the money to build 12 new buildings, each with 12 units, along with extending sewer and water infrastructure and new public streets in the subdivision, which has been under construction for more than a decade.

McDougall said some of the federal money is being used to launch a new online permitting system and to create an inventory of pre-approved designs to help speed up the residential development process.

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Mayor touts CBRM’s progressive goals

In addition, CBRM’s planning strategy was amended last year to make it easier for developers to increase the number of units in residential zones without having to apply for special permits.

That helped unlock funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which is needed in a municipality that’s desperately short of living units, the mayor said.

“When we were applying for the Housing Accelerator Fund, one of the stipulations was be bold, allow for more density,” said McDougall. “It’s really nice to be acknowledged by CMHC and the federal government for having such progressive goals.”

There is still some money left to help other developers build more housing, McDougall said, adding CBRM has approved about 150 building permits since February for units not associated with the latest announcement.

CBU not yet ready to start building

A spokesperson for Cape Breton University said in an email the institution is grateful for the federal funding though CBRM, but is not yet ready to start building at the former Tartan Downs site.

“We hope this investment will allow us to unlock the additional funds necessary to bring this project to life,” said Lenore Parsley, CBU’s director of communications.

The university received $5 million in provincial money back in 2022 and had hoped to start work last year.

CBU now hopes to issue tenders and begin construction sometime later this year, she said.

The plans call for 67 townhouse units and two 39-unit buildings, with all new sewer and water infrastructure and new public streets, with 70 of the units to be considered affordable housing.

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