Halifax mayor promises to do more to tackle housing affordability

·2 min read

Halifax mayor Mike Savage says his council is committed to making the city a more affordable place to live.

Record low vacancy rates and rising housing costs have created what many say is an affordable housing crisis in Halifax and elsewhere in the province. The number of people who are chronically homeless more than doubled in the Halifax area since last year.

The province announced new measures to address some of these issues last month, including a temporary cap on rent increases and a ban on so-called "renovictions."

"I think people sometimes say that's not our municipal responsibility in this province, that's provincial, but it's not. It's the responsibility of all of us," Savage told CBC's Mainstreet during a year-end interview on Thursday.

Savage said the Halifax Regional Municipality is committed to doing more to incentivize affordable development so there's more rental stock. That could mean not charging developers permits and fees if they're building affordable units, he said.

"We've had to work with the provincial government to get the right to do some of these things, but every avenue that we can do to be a partner in providing more affordable housing, we will do," he said.

Savage said he's proud of the steps the municipality has already taken to address rising housing costs, pointing to the recent sale of land in Dartmouth to a non-profit housing group.

Four plots of land were sold to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia for a dollar each. The organization plans to build 25 townhouses on True North Crescent.

The land was designated for affordable housing back in 1991 but had never been used for that purpose, said Savage.

A good investment

"Certainly the council that we have now is very committed to housing," he said. "Even if it means that it's going to cost us some money along the way, we think that's a good investment and pays back."

The municipality recently chose three housing projects from Adsum House, the North End Community Health Association and the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre to share in the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative.

Savage said the municipality is also trying to address the impact of Airbnbs, which he said "have exploded in Halifax."

"We've taken some of those steps and there's more that we all have to do to make sure that we don't become a city where nobody can afford to live," he said.

Hear the full interview with Mayor Mike Savage on CBC's Mainstreet: