Housing Accelerator Fund

MINORREV-2023-01065

Last updated: 02/20/2024

a graphic of four multi-unit buildings against a royal blue background with text that says "urgent changes to planning documents for housing"
four logos aligned horizontally: the national housing strategy, Canada, CMHC and Halifax

The municipality is facing significant challenges related to housing affordability and availability. Unprecedented population growth has led to a rising demand for housing that the current rate of residential construction cannot meet. As of 2023, the municipality’s housing shortage is estimated at almost 20,000 units – and the shortage is growing. 

As part of the federal Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) agreement, the municipality is proposing allowing a minimum of four units in all residential zones within the Urban Service Area to enable more housing development.

Proposed Amendments 

Regional Council has directed the CAO to expedite amendments to planning documents in the Regional Centre and Suburban Area to allow more dense housing development as-of-right. 

The engagement program associated with the HAF/Urgent Changes to Planning Documents ended on February 16th, 2024.

You can continue to participate in the process in two ways: 

  • The haf@halifax.ca email will still be open for questions of clarification. 
  • Anyone who makes a formal submission to this email will be redirected to the Clerk’s Office. The clerks@halifax.ca email will be open for formal submissions to Regional Council. 

Please note: Submissions to the Clerk’s office will be circulated to Regional Council directly and will be received up to 3pm on the date of the public hearing. Comments sent to the Clerk’s office by residents must include at least a first initial, last name and a contact method (e.g. email address). Anonymous submissions will not be distributed. Please visit the Communicating with Halifax Regional Council webpage for more information.

The public will still have the opportunity to participate in the public hearing (anticipated in April). The public hearing notice will be posted on the municipality's social media and on a future Regional Council Agenda once a date is set. For further details on the public hearing process and submissions prior to a public hearing, please visit the In-Person Public Hearings webpage

Find more information about the proposed changes in the drop down-menu and interactive map below.

Urgent Changes to Planning Documents for Housing - Summary

Support Gentle Density

Gentle density is additional density that has a minimal impact on a neighborhood while providing for additional housing options. For more information, please see the "Gentle Density and Missing Middle Housing" section under the drop-down menu.

- Allow a minimum of four units in all low-rise residential zones in the Urban Service Area

  • Allow up to 4 units or more per lot, regardless of the type of units (main, backyard suite or accessory units) in all residential zones in the Urban Service Area (except the Beechville CDD zone)
  • Remove existing policies in the Suburban Area that require single unit dwellings in new developments
  • Permit more than 4 units per lot in the Regional Centre, including through internal conversion in some areas
  • Secondary suites in the Regional Centre and Suburban Area will no longer be regulated by the municipality but may be constructed under the National Building Code
    • By permitting at least 4 dwelling units as-of-right, a land use definition of "secondary suite" is no longer needed
    • Property owners will still be eligible to apply for the provincial Secondary and Backyard Suite Incentive Program
    • Secondary suites in the Rural Area will continue to be regulated by the municipality

- More flexibility for backyard suites in the Regional Centre, Suburban Area and Rural Area

  • Increase the maximum height and gross floor area of accessory structures in all low-rise residential zones to:
    • Max. height of 25 feet or 7.7 metres
    • Max. gross floor area of 1000 square feet or 93 square metres
  • Allow non-conforming accessory structures to convert to backyard suites, if they do not exceed the max. gross floor area 
  • Improve emergency access requirements

- Increase maximum lot coverage in the Established Residential (ER) zones within the Regional Centre

Lot coverage generally means the percentage of a lot that is covered by roofed structures over 0.6 metres in height.

  • New lot coverage maximums will vary depending on the type of dwelling:
    • Single unit dwelling uses: 40%
    • Other residential uses on lots greater than 325 square metres: 50%
    • Other residential uses on lots less than 325 square metres: 60%

Enable More Missing Middle Housing

* Missing middle refers to housing that is intended to fill the gap between single-unit dwellings and high-density multi-unit apartments or mixed-use residential buildings. To learn more, please read the "Gentle Density and Missing Middle" section under the drop-down menu.

- Enable more missing middle housing options in the Regional Centre Established Residential (ER) Zones 

  • Increase options for missing middle housing in the ER designation
  • Replace the ER-1 Zone, which currently limits a large portion of the Regional Centre to single-unit dwellings, with the ER-2 and ER-3 Zones
  • Amend the zoning of proposed Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs) and registered heritage properties from ER-1 to ER-2
    • For more information, please see the "Support Heritage Properties and Areas" section below
  • Apply the ER-3 Zone broadly in the ER designation, which permits a range of housing types (e.g. duplex, townhouse and small multi-unit buildings) up to 12 metres, plus an additional 3 metres for a pitched roof or attic unit
  • Subject to meeting National Building Code requirements, increase maximums for:
    • ER-2 Zone: bedroom counts (up to 10 per dwelling unit)
    • ER-3 Zone: bedroom counts (up to 10 per dwelling unit) and unit counts (up to 8 per building)
  • Adjust parking, landscaping and minor design requirements

- Enable more housing options in the Suburban Area 

  • Allow more as-of-right multi-unit dwellings in the Suburban Area

Enable More Housing for Students

- Enable more mid-rise and high-rise housing near post-secondary institutions in the Regional Centre

  • Allow more mid-rise and high-rise development near post-secondary institutions 
  • Designate some ER-1, ER-2, and ER-3 zoned lands as Higher Order Residential (HR) or Corridor (COR) Zones, with a max. height of 7 to 9 storeys based on policy and context
  • Allow more housing within walking distance to post-secondary institutions by creating the Fenwick Street and Lucknow Centre and the Woodside Future Growth Node (see interactive map)

Enable More Transit-Oriented Development

- Enable more housing development along transit corridors in the Regional Centre

  • Expand Corridor (COR) zoning and increase max. height along proposed Rapid Transit routes in the Regional Centre
  • Increase max. height to 40 storeys and max. Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to 10 in most Centre (CEN) Zones, with potential for additional height in Future Growth Nodes (see interactive map
  • Consider minor height increases (up to 2 storeys) for existing development agreements approved under policies in effect prior to the Centre Plan in the CEN zones as a change to the development agreements (subject to review)

Support Heritage Properties and Areas 

- Provide more incentives to register/maintain heritage properties in the Regional Centre

  • Expand the heritage development agreement policy to the Downtown Halifax (DH) Zone to support additional housing and heritage preservation
  • Include a minor expansion to some proposed Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs) in existing low-rise neighbourhoods (see interactive map)
  • Re-zone proposed HCDs from ER-1 to ER-2, which will permit:
    • Single unit dwellings, two-unit dwellings and backyard suites as-of-right
    • Multi-unit dwellings through internal conversion and rear additions to existing structures
  • Maintain existing max. height requirements in the ER-2 Zone

Support Office Conversions for Housing

- Support office to residential conversions in the Regional Centre

  • Exempt commercial to residential conversions in Downtown Halifax (DH Zone) and Downtown Dartmouth (DD Zone) from the following requirements:
    • Amenity space
    • Unit mix
    • Development permits (where the built form is not changing) 

Incentivize Wood and Timber Construction

- Incentivize wood and timber construction in the Regional Centre

*Note: Wood and mass timber are renewable, generally less energy-intensive and less costly compared to other construction materials. The municipality's current method of regulating height is by using metres, which can limit the number of storeys that can be achieved using different building materials. 

  • Adjust how max. height is regulated by switching from metres to storeys in most high-density residential and mixed-use zones
  • Increase the max. streetwall height from 3 storeys to 6 storeys for buildings designed and built in wood or mass timber in the HR-1 and HR-2 Zones

Remove Parking Requirements 

- Remove parking requirements for all residential development in the Regional Centre and Suburban Area

  • All residential buildings, including multi-unit dwellings and shelters, will not require a minimum number of parking spaces in the Regional Centre and Suburban Area

Support Non-Market Housing 

- Support the creation of non-market housing in the Regional Centre

  • Exempt affordable housing providers from paying density bonusing 
  • Permit public benefits to be provided as land or units on-site in Future Growth Nodes (see interactive map

Enhance Built Form Flexibility

- Enhance the flexibility of built form requirements in the Regional Centre

  • Allow more flexible dimensions for:
    • Towers - allow a floor plate up to an average of 900 square metres)
    • Balconies - increase the amount of area that balconies can cover on building facades
    • Buildings in the HR-1 Zone
  • Exempt emergency staircases from floor area calculations
  • Increase the maximum height of "tall mid-rise" buildings from 8 storeys to 10 storeys
  • Increase the maximum height in Centre (CEN) Zones to 40 storeys and allow Future Growth Nodes to exceed this height
  • Increase FAR in the Dartmouth Cove Future Growth Node
  • Add flexibility to the "1 Hectare Development Agreement Policy" that allows for more height on large sites
  • Exempt small multi-unit buildings (under 40 units) from amenity space requirements
  • Reinstate maximum front setbacks in Downtown and Centre Zones on non-pedestrian oriented commercial streets
  • Reduce minimum stepback (the setback of an upper portion of a building) for mid-rise buildings from 2.5 metres to 2.0 metres
  • Measure building height from the streetline grade (the location of the front entrance) instead of an average finished grade around the perimeter (the centre of the lot)
  • Change required streetwall articulation (a design method to distinguish sections of a street facing wall) from every 8 metres to 10 metres

Enable Suburban Opportunity Sites

- Adjust policy to permit development on Suburban Opportunity Sites

  • As of July 2023, site-specific requests for amendments to suburban community plans are considered through the Suburban Planning process. This includes requests received through the Regional Plan and Suburban Plan consultation process.
  • Of the site-specific requests submitted, several were selected to receive minor policy changes to increase as-of-right housing options 
  • HAF Opportunity Sites will receive temporary up-zoning based on the framework of the Regional Centre Plan while a complete community plan is developed for the Suburban Area
  • Developments on approved Suburban Opportunity Sites will be subject to the Regional Plan Interim Bonus Zoning Policy (Section 9.7A) 

- Suburban Opportunity Sites were selected based on the following criteria:

  • Lot size: must be smaller than 2 hectares 
  • Location: must meet at least one of the following:
  • No Net Loss: projects must not result in the demolition of an existing multi-unit dwelling (3 units or more)
  • Environmental protection: sites are not located less than 3.2 metres above the CGVD2013 standard OR within 30 metres of a high-water mark

Information on the selected Opportunity Sites and recommended changes is available here and in the interactive map below.  

Other site-specific requests in the Suburban Area that were not selected will be considered  through the Suburban Planning process. A summary of the requests received to date is available here.

New inquiries will be considered as part of the Suburban Plan Process. Please contact suburbanplan@halifax.ca for more details. 

FAQs 

What are the permitted uses in the proposed ER-2 Zone?

The proposed ER-2 Zone will allow:

  • For new construction - single and two-unit dwellings
  • For existing dwellings - units may be added through internal conversion. Rear additions (not exceeding the size of the dwelling) are also permitted to facilitate internal conversion
    • Note: there will be no maximum unit count for internal conversions (subject to meeting National Building Code requirements)
  • Backyard suites
What are the permitted uses in the proposed ER-3 Zone?

The proposed ER-3 Zone will allow:

  • Single unit dwellings, two-unit dwellings, three-unit dwellings, and four-unit dwellings
  • Townhouses
  • Low-rise multi-unit dwellings (up to 8 units)
  • Backyard suites
How can I find the proposed height of my property?

To view proposed heights in the Regional Centre, please visit the interactive map.

Step 1: click on the “Map Layers” icon in the top right corner of the interactive zoning map

Step 2: select “Proposed Max. Height and Storeys – Regional Centre (Draft)” from the drop-down menu

Step 3: the proposed height (displayed as "x metres" or "x storeys") should appear when you navigate to your property on the map

When will these changes come into effect?

The amendments summarized above are being proposed by planning staff and are not currently in effect. They are subject to change until the draft amendment package is approved by Regional Council. The full list of draft amendments, in addition to a staff report, will be available to the public closer to the Regional Council date. 

Anticipated Timeline:

February 16, 2024 - last day to provide public feedback 

March/April 2024 - draft amendment package and staff report to be presented to Regional Council

April/May 2024 - proposed amendments to come into effect

How can I provide feedback?

The engagement program associated with the HAF/Urgent Changes to Planning Documents ended on February 16th, 2024.

You can continue to participate in the process in two ways: 

  • The haf@halifax.ca email will still be open for questions of clarification.  
  • Anyone who makes a formal submission to this email will be redirected to the Clerk’s Office. The clerks@halifax.ca email will be open for formal submissions to Regional Council. 

Please note: Submissions to the Clerk’s office will be circulated to Regional Council directly and will be received up to 3pm on the date of the public hearing. Comments sent to the Clerk’s office by residents must include at least a first initial, last name and a contact method (e.g. email address). Anonymous submissions will not be distributed. Please visit the Communicating with Halifax Regional Council webpage for more information.

The public will still have the opportunity to participate in the public hearing (anticipated in April). The public hearing notice will be posted on the municipality's social media and on a future Regional Council Agenda once a date is set. For further details on the public hearing process and submissions prior to a public hearing, please visit the In-Person Public Hearings webpage. 

 

Interactive Map

This interactive map shows how the proposed HAF amendments would impact land use policies and zoning (current and proposed) in the Regional Centre and Suburban Area.

*Note: This map has been prepared for public information purposes only; it does not include a comprehensive regulatory language and is subject to change. 

How to use this map

Pan around the map to explore the different layers. To see more, click on the map to view pop-up information about the property. 

In the top right corner of the map you will see the following icons:  

four map icons in blue boxes

Use the Basemap button to change the basemap 

Use the Filter button to select specific proposed zoning options 

Use the Layers button to turn on and off the layers of the map 

Use the Legend button to get a description of what is being shown on the map

About the Housing Accelerator Fund

The Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) is a federal program that works with municipalities to remove local barriers to residential development and fast-track the creation of homes across Canada.   
  
On October 12, 2023, an agreement was reached between the Government of Canada and the municipality to deliver $79.3 million in federal funding in support of housing initiatives that will be implemented by the end of 2026. The HAF agreement is expected to: 

  • Improve permitting processes and reduce upfront costs for applicants; 
  • Encourage development along transit corridors; 
  • Expand the current Affordable Housing Grant Program
  • Update heritage preservation policy;
  • Create a program to identify potential land for affordable housing; and
  • Provide incentives for: 
    • Residential construction that uses pre-approved building plans
    • The conversion of buildings from commercial to residential uses
    • Small scale residential construction 

 

The role of the HAF in the municipality’s planning framework

The HAF is an urgent response to the housing crisis that is intended to increase density in the municipality’s urban and suburban areas. This accelerated policy intervention involves updating planning documents to rapidly enable more housing development in existing serviced areas. 

The HAF is guided by principles set out in the Regional Plan that include:   

  • Protect the environment and heritage;
  • Use infrastructure efficiently;  
  • Support complete communities, pedestrians and transit;  
  • Enable more housing for students;  
  • Create and maintain rental housing/minimize displacement and net loss; 
  • Apply What We Heard from recent consultations; 
  • Address the current housing environment; 
  • Address Suburban Opportunity Sites; and 
  • Set the foundation for the Suburban Planning process

 

Gentle Density and Missing Middle Housing

A graphic of various types of missing middle housing represented as colourful icons

What are "Gentle Density" and "Missing Middle Housing"?

Policies that support gentle density and missing middle housing enable a mix of housing types, allowing for diverse and inclusive communities in every neighbourhood. These policies permit more housing and a variety of housing options to be built in areas already serviced by municipal infrastructure.

- Gentle density is additional housing that has a minimal impact on a neighborhood's built form and character. 

  • Examples include backyard suites, secondary suites, and internal conversions of existing single unit dwellings to create new units.
  • Benefits include intergenerational living spaces, aging in place, and additional income for property owners.
A graphic of various types of missing middle housing represented as colourful icons

Missing middle refers to housing that is intended to fill the gap between single-unit dwellings and high-density multi-unit apartments or mixed-use residential buildings. 

  • Examples include townhouses, two and three-unit dwellings, cluster housing, and small scale multi-unit housing (see infographic above)
  • Missing middle housing options support walkable, complete communities that meet the needs of all residents.

Process 

The application will be considered under the Municipal Planning Strategy amendment process. 

Status

Residents may contact haf@halifax.ca about the status of this project until February 16, 2024. Staff reports are currently being drafted and are expected to be presented to Regional Council in February and March 2024. 

Resources