Legislation to Speed Up Housing Builds in Halifax Regional Municipality
The Province is taking steps to get more housing built, faster, in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
Amendments to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter and the Housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality Act introduced today, October 12, provide legislative authority to speed up development approvals, increase density and reduce barriers to housing builds in HRM.
“The need for more housing is urgent, especially in the HRM. All levels of government need to be bold, diligent and willing to do things differently to ensure we put forward solutions that give as many people and families as possible a place to call home, as quickly as possible,” said John Lohr, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “In order to truly address this housing crisis, we need more stock. We have an unprecedented housing problem, and the solutions need to be bold. This legislation gives the minister the authority to intervene on behalf of Nova Scotians when outdated policies and practices are slowing down construction and keeping them from accessing a safe and affordable home, faster.”
Amendments to the HRM Charter and the Housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality Act include:
- creating one of Canada’s first trusted partner programs, which will offer qualified developers – working with certified professionals who have a solid track record of quality developments – expedited services, allowing them to get shovels in the ground faster
- exempting critical healthcare facilities, including long-term care facilities, from land-use bylaws; this will allow urgently required beds to be built faster in communities that need them the most
- temporarily freezing all municipal permit and development fees, including Halifax Water regional development charges and density bonus charges, for a period of two years; any increase would require ministerial approval
- allowing more flexibility on unit mix for buildings
- increasing the minimum floorplan size for high-rise buildings
- reducing minimum lots sizes and increasing allowable coverage
- encouraging approval of HRM’s Suburban Plan, which is overdue
- accelerating development approvals by giving expert planning staff more authority
- giving the minister authority to make decisions on development in HRM without a recommendation from the Executive Panel on Housing or request from the municipality
- giving HRM the authority to unilaterally discharge existing development agreements that are more restrictive, to enable height and density
- granting all variances respecting set backs or street walls unless HRM can demonstrate that they materially alter the intent of the municipal planning strategy.
As part of this bill, regulations will be developed that will allow for more density and the use of more sustainable building materials.
The proposed changes support recommendations put forward in the HRM Housing Barrier Review (Deloitte Report), which identified barriers to the safe and rapid increase in housing supply.
- British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick have legislation that gives the minister or attorney general the power to override a municipal bylaw (often with conditions and often related exclusively to planning matters)
- the Province has invested close to $300 million to increase stock, enhance affordability, and provide more housing for Nova Scotians – faster
- the Minister on recommendation of the Executive Panel on Housing (HRM Task Force) has designated 10 special planning areas that will significantly speed up development in HRM and result in close to 23,000 new residential units
News release – Independent Report Makes Recommendations on Reducing Barriers to Housing Development: https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20221019001
Mandate letter of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: https://novascotia.ca/exec_council/letters-2021/ministerial-mandate-letter-2021-MAH-EMO-MR.pdf
Bills tabled in the legislature are available at: https://nslegislature.ca/legislative-business/bills-statutes/bills/assembly-64-session-1