Housing affordability a critical issue for HRM and District 7

housing

Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

Halifax Regional Municipality must continue to set the agenda on issues of housing and homelessness.

As Halifax’s economy has started to grow, development has returned to the peninsula with a speed and ferocity that has not been seen since the Second World War. This pressure is making it harder for people to stay in their homes, and for young adults to rent or buy in the neighbourhoods where they grew up. Regional Council has started to take a leadership role in managing these challenges, but more must be done.

Providing affordable housing means providing a range of housing options, including boarding houses, social housing and workforce housing. We must ensure that Halifax is a place where people of all ages and incomes have the opportunity to live near where they work.

Halifax Regional Municipality has stepped up as a founder and funder of the Housing and Homelessness Partnership;other stakeholders include the province and the United Way. This partnership has produced two landmark reports.

The first report was the Halifax Housing Needs Assessment (October 2015). This report found Halifax facing a housing crisis: 19,570 households (11.8% of all households in Halifax) were spending 50% or more of their household income on housing costs, and 20,415 households (13% of all households) were in core housing need.

The second report, Affordable Housing 5-Year Targets (June 2016), identified that HRM needs 6,000 new units of affordable housing, 2,000 units of renovated not-for-profit dwellings, and an increase in single-room occupancy opportunities by 2021.

The municipality should support housing affordability in other ways. The Centre Plan should require inclusionary zoning (ie: affordable housing) for any large, multi-unit building. The municipality should consider lowering permit fees and ask for changes to the Charter in order to allow multi-year tax relief, but only if the province provides adequate funding for affordable housing that will support these targets, for example,  $75,000 per door of new housing and $25,000 per door of existing stock.

The municipality can help fill housing gaps, too. For example, in 2015 I helped obtain funding for the Extreme Weather Winter Warming Centre pilot program. This program helps provide warm, safe places for homeless people who need shelter on the coldest days of winter, while the nighttime shelters are closed.

Finally, Halifax is the only medium or large municipality in Canada that does not receive provincial funding for and provide direct delivery of housing programs. This means that although the municipality delivers community planning, it is disconnected from funding and program delivery. I believe that Halifax should ask the provincial government to hand the funding and responsibility of managing and delivering affordable housing and social housing in HRM over to the municipality.

Commitments:

  1. Ensure that all plans, especially the Centre Plan, support inclusive zoning and affordable housing requirements as a part of a density bonusing plan.
  2. Consider development permit relief and Charter changes to allow multi-year tax relief for not-for-profit housing providers, but tied to increased provincial funding, and  to the five-year targets, for existing and new affordable stock.
  3. Request that province hand over funding and the responsibility of managing and delivering affordable housing and social housing in HRM over to the municipality
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