Affordable housing

Halifax deputy mayor wants progress in affordable housing

Regional council to see report on transferring responsibility for housing from the province to HRM

Halifax regional council voted on Tuesday to look into getting responsibility for affordable housing from the province.   Hannah Daley

Halifax is lacking progress when it comes to providing affordable housing, and deputy mayor Waye Mason wants to change that. 

Mason wants the Halifax Regional Municipality to take over responsibility for affordable housing program operations within the municipality, which the province is currently in charge of.  

Halifax regional council voted 13-3 on Tuesday for a staff report to research what the takeover might look like.

“The province doesn’t really build a lot of buildings; it’s not as fast as I would like when it comes to things like that,” said Mason. “And we build a lot; we maintain a lot of buildings.”

The staff report will look at how to fund the transfer, which would mainly be through property tax, by redirecting money from mandatory education and social housing funding to the municipality from the province. 

Right now, the province is in charge of programs like the Metro Regional Housing Authority, which is responsible for the administration and management of rental housing units, including public housing.

Mason wants more affordable housing units to be built in the municipality because he says the province hasn’t been making progress in the area.

Councillors’ main concern was the possibility the province would decide to make the municipality fully responsible for the program, making them financially responsible as well. 

“If the province announced tomorrow that they were going to download responsibility for housing on us, we would lose our minds,” said Coun. Steve Adams. “I won’t support this.”

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll and Coun. Steve Streatch also voted against the motion.

However, Mason said downloading could have happened at any time, and this report isn’t meant to encourage that. 

“(We are) asking for an equitable, fair way that includes transferring tax revenue. It is a provincial responsibility and they should help; they should be paying for it,” said Mason in the interview. “But the minister could decide and cabinet could decide to download it to us anyway.”

Halifax hasn’t been responsible for operating housing programs since 1997 as the province took over. At that time, Halifax became one of the few, if not only, major Canadian municipalities without a housing department.

According to a 2015 report by the Housing and Homelessness partnership, approximately one in four households in Halifax spent more than 30 per cent of their household income on housing.

In 2016, regional council voted to attempt having at least 5,000 affordable housing units in the city. The goal is to achieve this within the following five years by building new units and maintaining existing ones, but so far none have been constructed.