Halifax needs to focus on increasing housing density to meet demand, says new report

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A new report is recommending big changes to rules surrounding housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) to make it easier build more units over the next few years.

The HRM Housing Development Barrier Review from consulting firm Deloitte for the province’s housing task force said in order to address the deficit in housing right now, and to meet a population target of 525,000 in 2027, the city “would need to complete 7,600 per year between now and 2027, compared to the historical rate of only 3,000 per year.”

To meet this goal, the report suggests doing away with single-family home restrictions in favour of multi-unit dwellings, shrinking the minimum size of building lots, reviewing the purpose of public input and appeals and eliminating the need to provide parking spots for all residents.

The report recommends these changes be implemented immediately to address a housing backlog now, and plan for a growing population in the future. The Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the province’s housing task force will work with HRM to implement the recommendations.

Former Liberal MLA Geoff MacLellan, head of the province’s housing task force, said the recommendations address an urgent need.

“As many [housing units] as we can is ultimately the goal,” MacLellan told reporters Wednesday.

Geoff MacLellan heads the Nova Scotia housing task force. (CBC)

On parking, MacLellan said public transportation has to be factored into new development locations. He said residents will still have a voice on new housing projects.

“We’re always listening to all Nova Scotians,” he said.

MacLellan said the recommendations to do not take power away from the municipality, but “streamlines the work that they’re doing.”

The Halifax Regional Municipality released a statement Wednesday afternoon in support of the report.

“The Halifax Regional Municipality is very pleased to see that the recommendations of this independent report serve to validate the important work of the municipality, including efforts to address affordable housing,” the statement said. 

“Many of the recommendations reflect work that is well underway and the municipality is confident that this work will be completed in a timely manner.”

Braedon Clark is the MLA for Bedford South. (CBC)

Opposition Liberal MLA Braedon Clark said the report appears to strike the right balance between engaging people and meeting a need.

“We realize we have a housing crisis in HRM and in the province and I think we need to get as many units up as possible across the income spectrum,” Clark said.

Clark said he is concerned about the lack of detail on affordable housing and transit.

“If you want to densify along transit corridors, that’s a great idea. But the province is still sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars through the federal government for transit funding … if you want to get people living in dense neighbourhoods, they need buses and ferries to get around and I don’t quite see that yet.”

Clark said housing is also an issue outside Halifax and finding solutions for other municipalities should be a priority.

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