News release

Amendments to HRM Charter Support Planning, Affordable Housing

Current and future residents of Halifax Regional Municipality will benefit from legislative changes that aim to increase affordable housing, give flexibility to municipal planning and result in community improvements.

Legislation introduced today, May 7, by John MacDonell, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, will amend the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter.

"HRM needs more flexibility, better tools, and the appropriate legislative framework for municipal planning in order to better serve people," said Mr. MacDonell. "These changes support what Nova Scotians want, strong, vibrant communities that offer the housing, services and amenities they need."

The changes will give the municipality increased authority to use bonus zoning and planning tools throughout the Halifax peninsula and Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway. Currently, these tools are limited to use in the downtown Halifax core.

HRM will continue to grow as Nova Scotia begins to build Canada's next fleet of combat ships, and as the offshore develops in the years ahead. These changes will help the city adapt and plan with residents in mind.

Mayor Mike Savage welcomed the introduction of legislation that will help HRM meet targets for growth in the regional centre.

"This legislation will allow us to encourage development and sustainable growth in the regional centre by creating clearer site regulations for developers and faster turnaround times for building applications," said Mr. Savage. "At the same time, the density bonusing provisions will create conditions for more affordable housing."

The mayor said Halifax has already put site-plan approval provisions to work in the downtown core where development activity is at levels not seen in more than 20 years.

Incentive or bonus zoning are strategic planning tools used by municipal governments to secure community benefits from developers.

Bonus zoning, for example, allows the municipality to approve additional size to a development in exchange for something that benefits people, such as affordable housing.

"Creating partnerships is a key pillar in our housing strategy," said Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse. "This legislation enables us to work together with HRM to create more vibrant communities and help moderate to low income families with more affordable housing."

HRM will use bonus zoning to increase affordable housing in the municipality. This supports, and helps advance, the province's first long-term, affordable housing strategy that was announced Monday.

This approach to municipal planning aligns with Halifax By Design in the downtown core of Halifax.

"Due to the rising cost of building and operating housing, many low- and moderate-income families are having a hard time paying rent," said Ross Cantwell, president of the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia. "This legislation allows HRM to increase the number of affordable housing units that are created, thereby helping keep our community diverse and vibrant."

This bill includes a definition of affordable housing, and the ability to include requirements other than affordable housing for incentive or bonus zoning.

Similar amendments were introduced in December 2012, but were not passed before House of Assembly closed.

Halifax Regional Municipality was granted its own charter in 2009 to better respond to its unique needs as the largest municipality in Atlantic Canada.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

Halifax Regional Municipality residents will benefit from changes to legislation that aim to increase affordable housing, give flexibility to municipal planning and result in community improvements.

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell introduced amendments today (May 7th) to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter.

Mr. MacDonell says HRM needs flexibility, better tools, and the appropriate legislative framework for municipal planning in order to better serve people. He says these changes support strong, vibrant communities that offer the housing, services and amenities they need.

The changes will give the municipality increased authority to use bonus zoning and site planning tools throughout the Halifax peninsula and Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway. Presently, these tools are limited to use in the downtown Halifax core.

Bonus zoning allows the municipality to approve additional size to a development in exchange for something that benefits people. HRM will use bonus zoning to increase affordable housing in the municipality which helps advance the province's first long-term, affordable housing strategy announced Monday.

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