Improving the housing crises will take creative solutions and collaboration between all levels of government. The Ecology Action Centre acknowledges there is a legitimate need for new and more affordable housing in Halifax Regional Municipality and we do not oppose well planned and sustainable development projects. However, we’re consistently frustrated and alarmed by the Province of Nova Scotia’s announcements to change established and democratic planning processes. It’s not okay to accelerate housing development at all costs.
Last week, the province published a report, HRM Housing Development Barrier Review, completed by private auditing firm Deloitte to identify obstacles and solutions to accelerating development in the HRM. Many of the recommendations are aligned with creating more complete communities, like removing minimum parking requirements, reducing lot sizes and allowing for more secondary suites. However, the EAC can’t support the recommendation to limit public meetings and opportunities for public engagement. Residents should have a voice in how their community is shaped, and we instead need more meaningful opportunities for input that result in concrete change.
On Friday, Oct. 21, the province announced additional changes to the Halifax Charter, to give the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing more power over the municipal planning process. Nova Scotia Bill 225 will give the minister the authority to nullify HRM by-laws to build houses faster. In no way should developers be able to ignore established policy and by-laws. Reflecting years of hard work by planning staff, councillors, and the advocacy of community groups, these by-laws are in place to ensure the HRM grows in the best way for humans and nature. The minister had previously reassured the public that the Housing Task Force would respect HRM’s existing plans and processes. This is no longer true.
Tensions between development and conservation have never been higher, with all levels of government weighing in. Also on Friday, Oct. 21, the Supreme Court of Canada announced their decision on the landmark case between developer Annapolis Group Inc. and Halifax Regional Municipality, regarding lands beside Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area. The case will go to trial, leaving the area vulnerable to development.
Join us Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m. AST, for a guest lecture by one of Canada's leading environmental lawyers, David Donnelly. David’s lecture will highlight the legal framework surrounding the case, its importance for planning and environmental conservation across Canada, and make recommendations for advocacy efforts going forward. This will be a hybrid event. Join in person at the Richard Murray Design Building (5257 Morris Street, Halifax, 3rd floor Planning Studio) or online at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86257098231.