The front doors of a split house one side blue and one side red with yellow trim.

Complete Communities

The Ecology Action Centre is committed to the creation of a more liveable and resilient Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). That’s why we advocate for integrating the principles of an approach known as “complete communities” into all plans for development and growth. The term “complete communities” refers to a more sustainable and affordable pattern of development. This type of development offers a range of accessible housing options, infrastructure for safe walking and cycling, access to reliable transit, and proximity to commercial centres and recreational opportunities.  


Regional Plan

Regional Plan

Ever wondered what determines the development you see popping up around the city, which pieces of wilderness are protected, and which are turned into subdivisions, or even the modes of transit to which you have access?  

The Halifax Regional Municipal Strategy (known as the Regional Plan) is HRM’s highest level planning document that sets the vision and strategy for future growth. It considers the entire region, from Hubbards to Ecum Secum and everything in between. The Regional Plan was first created in 2006 to guide the city into 2031 and is now undergoing review through public consultation.  

The EAC has been active in the public consultations and is asking for three primary changes:  

  1. Allow existing green network, wetlands, and watercourses to guide growth and development – HRM has rich green and blue networks surrounding its communities. These must be preserved. Unfortunately, the benefits of natural ecosystems are not currently prioritized when reviewing growth and development decisions.   

  1. Use new growth to build complete communities – HRM does not follow an approach guided by the complete communities' concept before approving new developments. It is essential that firm standards and criteria are developed and that only developments that will build complete communities are approved.  

  1. Make our growth make sense – Urban sprawl is costly. Residents subsidize these costs, including those used to develop over valuable greenspace. The infilling of wetlands and building too close to the coast leave residents susceptible to the effects of climate change. We are asking HRM to prioritize development of brownfield sites (previously developed land that isn’t currently in use) over greenfield sites (wilderness).  

Centre Plan

Centre Plan

HRM’s urban core is home to over 25 per cent of the region’s population. The Regional Centre Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law (or the Centre Plan, for short) is the guiding document for planning and development in Halifax’s Regional Centre, including Peninsula Halifax and Dartmouth inside the Circumferential Highway. 

The Centre Plan was approved by Regional Council in 2021 with significant EAC involvement. Although you can find EAC's full comments on the Centre Plan report, here is a short list of our key priorities:  

  1. A reliable, low-impact transportation system which prioritizes people, not cars 

  1. Energy-efficient buildings that withstand the test of time and give more than they take  

  1. The retention and expansion of natural assets that aid in ecosystem and watershed protection 

  1. Protection of heritage and cultural assets that make HRM attractive to residents and tourists 

  1. Assurance that all citizens have equitable access to amenities and safe, affordable housing 

Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing

Healthy, sustainable urban communities are rooted in the principles of building compact accessible living options that are close to amenities, linked to public transportation networks, and mindful of natural ecosystems.  

In HRM, sprawling development has become more affordable than life in the denser downtown core. Corresponding problems now exist for renters and home buyers as well as wildlife habitats and watersheds due to the development impact on open spaces. 

During the creation of the Centre Plan, EAC advocated for acceptance of secondary and backyard suites. Secondary suites are small, additions to a home within regulated size and design guidelines. Backyard suites are small stand-alone units in a home’s backyard. Read EAC’s Submission to the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission for more information. 

Development Pressures

Development Pressures

HRM’s population is growing rapidly and there is a legitimate need for more housing. Both municipal and provincial governments are making changes to planning and development processes to meet the increased housing demand. EAC is supportive of some of these changes, and critical of others. We are committed to the ongoing advocacy of strategic and sustainable growth in the right places.   

Special Planning Areas 

On March 25, 2022, The Executive Panel on Housing in the HRM, a joint provincial-municipal housing task force, announced that nine large parcels of land were identified to be fast-tracked for development. Designating these as 'special planning areas' gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the authority to approve agreements with developers, approve or change existing land-use by-laws, and change existing Municipal Planning Strategies. The nine special planning areas would total up to 22,600 new housing units.  

EAC acknowledged the need for new housing but raised concerns about the task force’s decision-making process. Development of many of the identified 'special planning areas' will have negative impacts on the environment. Sandy Lake, one of HRM’s last remaining old growth forest and wild areas, is positioned to receive the bulk of the development at 6,000 units. Furthermore, a third-party study, commissioned by HRM staff to identify ecologic assets around Sandy Lake Regional Park, has not been completed.  

Map of the Special Planning Areas 

This map shows the 'special planning areas' selected by the task force. Using the Legend (click the >> button), you may also turn on layers to view several environmental features, including proposed wildlife corridors from the Wildlife Corridor Landscape Design Charette Report and the Halifax Green Network Plan. HRM parks and provincial parks and protected areas can also be viewed.