Affordable housing

All three levels of government play a role in the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing. The municipality acknowledges housing is a shared responsibility and issues surrounding affordable housing and homelessness cannot be solved by any single group or any single solution.  

Recent affordable housing initiatives approved by Regional Council

Secondary and backyard suites

In the fall of 2020, the municipality approved region-wide amendments to the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy (view the Council report) and community land-use by-laws to allow secondary and backyard suites accessory to low-density residential uses. Secondary and backyard suites are smaller accessory dwelling units that can be used as housing for aging parents, adult children, or as rental units for the general public. View how to apply for a secondary suite permit information. View how to apply for a backyard suite permit information. 

Affordable Housing Grant Program

The 2021 Affordable Housing Grant Program is now closed.  

 The successful applicants for the 2021-2022 Affordable Housing Grant were: 
•    $162,636 for Affirmative Ventures’ 45-unit mixed-use residential and commercial (social enterprise) project in Dartmouth; 
•    $180,327 for Welcome Housing/YWCA’s project to renovate four deeply affordably units in Halifax; and 
•    $472,282 for Compass Nova Scotia’s 56-unit co-operative housing project in Halifax.

The Affordable Housing Grant Program is open to all registered non-profit or charitable organizations for the development or renovation of affordable housing units. 

Multi-year tax relief for non-profit organizations

Administrative Order 2014-001- ADM, the Tax Relief For Non-Profit Organizations Administrative Order provides tax relief to eligible non-profit and charities. In the fall of 2020, the Administrative Order was amended to include a streamlined reapplication process that creates a form of multi-year tax relief for all non-profits. This is especially beneficial for housing organizations who can claim multi-year tax relief when applying for funding from CMHC. View more information on the municipal Tax Relief Program.  

Waiving of municipal related construction fees 

In November 2020, the municipality approved the waiver of the majority of municipal-related construction fees for residential development by registered non-profits or charitable housing organizations. View the Council report.  Eligible fees include:

  • Construction permits such as a development permit, plumbing permit and encroachment permits/fees 
  • Subdivision application such as processing fees for concept or final subdivision plans
  • Discretionary approvals such as processing fees to amend a land use by-law or to enter into a development agreement
  • Variance applications for relaxations to lot area, lot coverage, lot frontage and setback requirements
  • Site Plan Approval applications where site plan approval is required prior to a construction permit
  • Other services such as a zoning confirmation letter


The amendments do not include:

  • Halifax Water Regional Development Charge (RDC)
  • Security Deposits and Liability Insurance
  • Pavement Impact Charge
  • Parkland Dedication
  • Incentive of Bonus Zoning Public Benefit
  • Local Improvement or Area Rate Charges (not including Capital Cost Charges for Solid Waste and Stormwater Capital Cost Charges)

For the application fees to be waived the applicant must provide proof of the following criteria:

  • Upon the date of application, the applicant must be a registered not-for-profit or registered charity for at least 1 year
  • The provision of affordable housing must be included in the mandate or programs and activities of the registered non-profit or charity (this can be found on the website for the Canadian Revenue Agency or on the provincial application for registering as a non-profit)
  • A minimum of 60% of the development must be for housing*
  • The property that is the subject of the application is solely owned by one or a combination of the following: the applicant, the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Government of Canada, or an agent of the Province of Nova Scotia or the Government of Canada, including a Crown corporation.
  • Upon the date of application, the applicant must have fully paid all taxes owing, or all installments or all interim payments due to the municipality
Affordable housing surplus land category 

In December 2020, the municipality approved a new surplus land category that will make the land suitable for the development of housing available to registered non-profit or charitable housing organizations. Prior to the creation of this new surplus land category, Regional Council approved the sale of four properties on True North Crescent in North Dartmouth to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia. Visit the municipal Real Estate and Land Management webpage for information regarding surplus municipal land. 

Rapid Housing Initiative

The Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) is a federally funded program with the aim of developing 3,000 new permanent housing units across the country. To date, the Halifax Regional Municipality has participated in two rounds of RHI projects. The three projects awarded in the first round are currently under development by Adsum for Women and Children; the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre and the North End Health Community Association for a total 52 deeply affordable units/rooms. The three RHI projects awarded in Round 2 are being developed by the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS), Souls Harbour, and Akoma, for a total of 85 affordable units/rooms.  

 

Ongoing efforts

Housing and Homelessness Partnership

The municipality has been an active member of the Housing and Homelessness Partnership (HHP) since it was created in 2013. The HHP is a collaborative of nine partners from the three levels of government, the private sector, and non-profit organizations in Halifax with the mandate to “end homelessness and housing poverty in Halifax” by addressing policy and systematic issues. The (HHP) has been advocating for the need to expand the existing stock of affordable housing to address core housing needs across the municipality. While having a seat at the Partnership table, Planning and Development staff play key roles with partnership through participation in various sub-groups and task teams.

Through participation in the HHP, the municipality acknowledges that housing is a shared responsibility and issues surrounding affordable housing and homelessness cannot be solved by any single group or any single solution. The provincial government plays a large role in providing services to support those in need of housing, including rent supplements, emergency shelters and public housing, and the municipality plays an important role in removing barriers to the development of different housing forms by requiring the inclusion of affordability through incentive or bonus zoning.

Affordable Housing Work Plan

On July 31, 2018, Regional Council endorsed the Affordable Housing Work Plan which outlines the major contributions from the municipality to meet the five-year targets of the Housing and Homelessness Partnership. Key initiatives include:

  • Density Bonus / Incentive or Bonus Zoning 
  • Registration and/or Licensing of Residential Rental Units
  • Policy and Regulatory Barriers 
  • Municipal Funding Incentives
  • Municipal Surplus Land 
  • Vulnerable Neighbourhoods

View the 2020 report that provides an update to the 2018 workplan.

Rental Registration By-law

Staff are developing a rental registration By-law which will include provisions for mandatory registration of residential rental accommodations and help ensure all rental accommodations meet minimum occupancy standards. Recent amendments to the M-200 - Standards for Residential Occupancies By-Law expanded where minimum safety standards apply and included enhanced safety, community integration, and accountability provisions for all residential rental properties. The registration and/or licensing of residential rental units will require all residential rental units within the municipality to be registered or licensed. This allows for more flexibility in ensuring buildings are compliant with rules and regulations including meeting minimum standards. View the Council report.

Shared housing 

Staff are developing an approach to remove barriers for shared housing – a single term to include special care facilities, supportive housing and single room occupancies.

Clustered tiny homes

Tiny homes, in general, are smaller and more efficiently designed single unit dwellings (SUDs). Tiny homes have gained increasing popularity by those looking to downsize or lessen their ecological footprint. They also provide an opportunity to serve as an affordable type of housing unit due to the more economical construction (compared to other SUDs) and as they generally consume less energy. As tiny homes and clustered tiny home developments in urban settings are a fairly new concept, staff are considering developing new land-use policy to enable such developments.  

Short-term rentals 

Short-term rentals (STR) are temporary overnight accommodations rented out by property owners or tenants, typically for a few nights or weeks. Over the past few years, the prevalence of STRs has grown through the popularity of online platforms such as Airbnb, VBRO and HomeAway. Staff are in the process of amending regional and community plans to establish consistent regional-wide policies, definitions and regulations for short-term rentals in residential and developing a short-term rental registration requirement.

Municipal role in housing

In response to a motion from Regional Council, staff prepared a report that reviewed the municipality's role our current role in housing and assessed options in requesting the transfer of the responsibility to operate and deliver housing programs and service from the Province.

On November 23, 2021, Regional Council considered the staff report and approved motions to direct staff to :
•    Update the HRM housing needs assessment every 5 years; 
•    Develop an Affordable Housing Strategy that includes a review of the effectiveness of existing programs and an implementation framework to broaden municipal support for affordable housing; 
•    Prepare a report exploring municipal housing organization models, including an overview of financial implications, legal authorities, best practices and the scope for implementation; 
•    discuss  actions outlined in the Ministerial Mandate Letter dated September 14, 2021 with the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing; and
•    Explore with the Province of Nova Scotia any interest in transferring some or all housing responsibility to the municipality.

Municipal staff are currently working on a series of staff reports to respond to these motions. 
 

Land-use regulation 

Land use by-law simplification projects , such as Centre Plan and the current update to the Regional Plan, are important land use planning projects that update and simplify development rules which in turn can streamline the process to increase housing supply. 

Cogswell District project

The Cogswell District is one of the biggest city-building projects in the history of Halifax. A new neighbourhood will soon be built – where the Cogswell Interchange now stands – designed to connect downtown with the north end and waterfront, creating a stronger, more inclusive network of communities. This project will not only bring new housing stock to the downtown region, but will also incorporate affordable housing units into the development. 

Defining affordable housing

The Halifax Regional Municipality Charter defines affordable housing as “housing that meets the needs of a variety of households in the low to moderate income range”. The broad nature of this definition exemplifies how affordable housing encompasses a large range that can address deep affordability for our most vulnerable populations as well as a moderate affordability for our working population.

Core Housing Need is where housing meets one the following criteria:

  • More than 30 per cent of low to moderate income households’ gross income is spent on housing. This includes the cost of mortgage/rent, monthly heat (includes gas, oil and electricity), water, and utilities. 
  • Housing does not meet minimum occupancy standards
  • Housing does not meet the needs of the occupant (e.g. a family of four should not live in a one-bedroom apartment).