Nova Scotia

Ottawa approves Halifax's bid for federal housing money to fast-track new construction

Ottawa has approved Halifax's bid for federal housing money, which will be used to fast-track the construction of 2,600 new units in the municipality over the next three years.

Halifax Regional Municipality will get $79.3M over 4 years to build more than 10,000 new units

Three men wearing suits stand outside a residential building in front of a podium with a microphone.
Housing Minister Sean Fraser, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher were at the federal funding announcement in Dartmouth on Thursday. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Ottawa has approved Halifax's bid for federal housing money, which will be used to fast-track the construction of 2,600 new units in the municipality over the next three years.

Earlier this year, the Halifax Regional Municipality had asked for about $79 million through the federal government's housing accelerator fund to fast-track development approvals, reduce fees and expand its affordable housing grant program, among other initiatives.

The federal program allocates $4 billion in funding until 2026-27 to encourage more home building in cities across Canada.

On Thursday, Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced that the federal government had approved Halifax's request, after coming to an agreement on the city's action plan.

"I want to say congratulations to Halifax for embracing the moment and being determined to build more homes for the city," Fraser said at the announcement in Dartmouth.

"And I want to send a message to Halifax, and it's one of gratitude. By working together, we're going to be able to address the housing crisis in this city and we can set a model that the rest of the country can replicate."

Fraser said the funding will also help with the construction of an additional 8,866 homes over the next 10 years.

Plan to build more housing

The municipality had submitted its bid for the federal funding in June, but in September, Fraser requested four changes to the application before it could be approved.

Fraser's requests included allowing four units per lot within the urban service boundary, an affordable housing strategy, increasing student rentals, and legalizing four-storey dwellings for all residential areas covered by the municipality's Centre Plan.

Council accepted all but the four storeys request, after Coun. Waye Mason made the motion that there shouldn't be any specific height included in the funding application. He said this would fast-track changes and enable the municipality to build more "missing middle housing."

In a letter to Halifax Mayor Mike Savage earlier this month, Fraser approved the amended application.

He said the city will receive 25 per cent of the money up front, about $20 million, and then receive another 25 per cent each year for the next three years.

At the announcement, Mayor Savage acknowledged that as all levels of government work to create more housing, "none of us can lose sight of the urgent need of the unhoused, including those sleeping in tents at our seat of civic government."

He said the funding will allow the municipality to build extra housing by increasing height and density regulations, reducing parking requirements, encouraging the conversion of commercial builds to residential, and encouraging more developments along rapid transit routes and near universities. 

He said the money will also help speed up permit approvals, expand the municipality's affordable housing grant program and make surplus land available for affordable housing. Some of the money will also be dedicated to hiring more planners to do the work.

"I think [the funding] will have a significant impact over a long period of time to build extra housing over and above what we would have been able to do before."

With files from Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash, Craig Paisley

CBC Nova Scotia

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