Today, the Province of Nova Scotia announced plans to take full control of planning and development in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). By announcing unprecedented changes to the Halifax Charter and the Housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality Act – the same legislation that created the Executive Panel on Housing – the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, John Lohr, now has absolute power and discretion over all planning and development in Halifax.
We are deeply concerned with the unilateral authority Minister John Lohr has been given over development, without recommendation from HRM staff or the Executive Panel on Housing. This consolidation of power is lacking in both oversight and public input, and is so broad that it leaves space for exploitation. Furthermore, there was no mention of affordable housing or transit in the province’s news release or a commitment to ensure accelerated development abides by existing plans and by-laws. This includes HRM priority plans like the Integrated Mobility Plan, Halifax Green Network Plan, or HalifACT Climate Plan – all of which have undergone extensive public engagement. The Minister had previously reassured the public that he and the Executive Panel on Housing would respect HRM’s existing plans and processes.
While we support reducing residential lots sizes, allowing more dense development, and allowing more flexibility for mixed-use development, these are all policy changes that have been proposed as part of the ongoing Halifax Regional Plan review, or previously approved Centre Plan (aka Regional Centre Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy, 2021).
We are also concerned with the freezing of all municipal permits and development fees. The fees in HRM associated with construction and development are low compared to other cities across Canada, and are an essential revenue stream for the municipality, to ensure municipal operations and our communities are adequately serviced.
We acknowledge that there is a dire need for new housing in Halifax, and that the province has made considerable investments in non-market housing solutions in recent days. However, we stress the importance of transparent and democratic processes which will shape the future of how our city will grow. We continue to be engaged in every opportunity to provide feedback into formal planning processes for the municipality, including the draft Regional Plan, which is currently open for public consultation until October 27, 2023.
Media Contact: Kortney Dunsby, Sustainable Cities Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org or 902-429-2202 ext 500