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Gottingen Street housing project exempt from building permit fees

Housing Trust of Nova Scotia hopes to start building in spring 2018

4 min read
caption The 115 unit building will stand where the Metropolitan store used to be on Gottingen Street.
Sandra Hannebohm
caption A 115-unit apartment building is expected to go up where the Metropolitan store used to be on Gottingen Street.
Sandra Hannebohm

Two new apartment buildings on Gottingen Street will be exempt from more than $700,000 in building permit fees, following a motion that passed Tuesday at regional council.

Deputy Mayor Waye Mason proposed the motion which will waive fees for residential buildings, with affordable units, as long as the developers are registered non-profit charities. The motion passed unanimously.

“I’m all for it,” he said during the council meeting.

The new Gottingen Street buildings, planned by the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia, will have one to three bedroom units for couples and small families. It will add 243 apartments to the north end neighbourhood and there will also be commercial space on the ground floors.

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The president of the Housing Trust, Ross Cantwell, hopes to begin construction in the spring. He said their approach to affordable housing is meant to benefit people of modest income.

“A single mom who works as a cashier with a kid in daycare, that’s a pretty hard budget to balance every month,” he said.

‘Another step in a long process’

The two properties, 2183 and 2215 Gottingen Street, have been slated for development since 2010. Construction was delayed twice by a group of competing neighbourhood developers who contested the Housing Trust’s plans.

The cost of providing affordable housing is expected to be offset by profit made from the rest of the units, which are set at market prices. The Trust has been waiting for approval by council since the process began in 2013, though Halifax West Community Council approved the plan two years ago.

“This is just another step in a long process; it’s just one more piece of the puzzle,” said Cantwell.

The amount in permit fees waived by regional council for the two Gottingen Street developments was $714,969. Cantwell said that’s not much compared to the costs they face.

“The cost of construction has been escalating,” said Cantwell, comparing it to the national inflation index, which hovers around two per cent. He added that construction inflation has increased to seven per cent.

“All of the subsidies that we’ve been given have almost evaporated because our costs have gone up 33 per cent while we’ve been waiting,” he said.

caption The new apartment building at 2215 Gottingen street will stand over this parking lot, where Diamonds Bar used to be.
Sandra Hannebohm

Housing strategy

In a 2015 report, the Housing and Homelessness Partnership said one in four households in Halifax was spending 30 per cent or more of their income on rent and utilities. The report also stated there were only 446 non-profit “supportive/supported” housing units in Halifax, and 5,651 subsidized apartments.

In response, regional council endorsed the Partnership in 2016, aiming to add 5,000 affordable units in Halifax by 2021.

‘Starting to understand’

Cantwell said it takes all three levels of government to work on a housing strategy. Ideally, he would like to see the province buy land for future housing, rather than having developers figure it out.

In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a 10-year, $40-billion National Housing Strategy involving housing investments in Nova Scotia neighbourhoods like Mulgrave Park. Cantwell is pleased that the municipal, federal and provincial governments have made commitments to housing strategies, even if he considers it a little late.

“Council is starting to understand some of the challenges in building affordable housing; it’s not an easy thing,” Cantwell said.

Anyone can apply for public housing under the Housing Authority of Nova Scotia, as long as they’re a legal Canadian resident or landed immigrant within household income limits.

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