Housing Accelerator Fund

a graphic of four multi-unit buildings against a royal blue background with text that says "urgent changes to planning documents for housing"

Last updated: 05/27/2024

 

Status

The amendments for Urgent Changes to Planning Documents for Housing were passed unanimously by Halifax Regional Council on Thursday, May 23, 2024 following a public hearing that began on May 21, 2024.


The approved Council package is currently being reviewed by the Province. Notice of approval will be published when the review is complete. Please note that the changes do not take effect until the notice of approval is published. 

 

Key Documents

Listed below are formal documents that detail the proposed changes:

 

Process to Date

May 21-23, 2024: Public Hearing and Second Reading at Regional Council [see the meeting agenda and meeting video]

*Note: during Second Reading, Council made an amendment to the proposed changes recommended by staff. This amendment can be found in the meeting minutes (available soon).

April 23, 2024: First Reading at Regional Council [see the meeting agenda, meeting video and minutes]

*Note: during First Reading, Council made a series of amendments to the proposed changes recommended by staff. Please see the meeting minutes for the updated amendments.

April 17, 2024: Presentation to the Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) [see the meeting agenda, meeting video and HAC report]

 

Further Information & Resources

Use the tabs below to access materials designed to help navigate the proposed changes.

Interactive Map: use the interactive map to explore the revised zoning (updated with changes from First Reading)

Presentations:  slides prepared by staff to help explain the proposed changes

Background Documents: studies, reports and further reading to provide background on the initiative

 

Overview

The municipality is facing significant challenges related to housing affordability and availability. Unprecedented population growth and challenging market conditions 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.

In collaboration with the federal and provincial governments, as part of the continued effort to support housing supply, the municipality is proposing amendments to planning documents that regulate the type of development in the municipality’s serviced areas (where water and wastewater services exist). The proposed changes to planning documents are intended to:

  • Meet the housing objectives of the Halifax Regional Municipality, as well as the federal and provincial governments to increase housing supply and streamline approvals; 
  • Respond to the requirements established for the Municipality under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Housing Accelerator Fund Program;   
  • Create more supportive policy and regulatory conditions for building new housing, providing more housing options, and diversifying construction types;  
  • Build on the Centre Plan framework to further support gentle density, missing middle housing, more housing on transit, more housing for students and residential conversions; 
  • Advance Suburban Opportunity Sites aligned with transit, and other amendments to suburban planning documents that improve regulatory conditions; and
  • Make other minor adjustments to regulations to support housing supply.

 

Proposed Amendments

On September 26, 2023, Regional Council directed the CAO to expedite amendments to planning documents to support key HAF initiatives while considering heritage resources and infrastructure capacity.    

The proposed amendments are guided by policies set out in the Regional Plan and Centre Plan including protecting the environment and heritage resources, enabling more student housing, supporting complete communities and more.

Staff reviewed feedback received from residents, industry, and other interested parties and prepared a revised amendment package for consideration by Regional Council.

Staff recommended several revisions to the proposed amendments with some of the key changes including:  

  • Revised zoning and heights in areas near post-secondary institutions in the Regional Centre;    
  • Additional lot size and urban design in Regional Centre Established Residential areas;
  • One additional proposed Heritage Conservation District (HCD) and expanded boundaries for one existing proposed HCD, for a total of eight proposed new or expanded HCD study areas in the Regional Centre;  
  • Addressing over 60 site specific requests in the Regional Centre;  
  • Minor changes to the recommended Suburban Opportunity Sites. 

 

Public Feedback

The official public engagement period for the amendments ended on February 16, 2024, and is detailed in the What We Heard report.

For more information on the public hearing that took place on May 21-23, 2024, please see the official Notice of Public Hearing, visit the Public Hearing website or find the meeting agenda, recording and minutes here.

To ask a question about the proposed changes, please email haf@halifax.ca and staff will do their best to follow up with you.

 

Common Questions

How do I find out if these changes affect the neighborhood I live in?

If you have access to municipal water and sewer, there is a good chance these proposed changes could impact your property. To find out more, you can search your address in the interactive map here.

Some changes apply across the municipality, including an increase in floor area and height for backyard suites.

For the Suburban Area, the proposed changes include:  

  • Allowing 4 units on a lot, subject to existing setbacks and lot control standards (e.g. lot coverage). To find out more, visit the Community Planning Area page.
  • Reducing minimum parking requirements for new residential developments
  • Recommending opportunity sites for rezonings. Find a complete list of requests and more details here. 

For properties located in Regional Centre, use the interactive map to search your address. The map will show your property’s proposed zone and maximum building height. You can use the corresponding Fact Sheets (see the Information Resources tab above) to find out more about the proposed zoning.  

Still have questions? Contact staff at haf@halifax.ca for assistance.

Are any of these new developments affordable?

The proposed changes are intended to reduce regulatory barriers to building housing and enabling more density broadly across the municipality. These changes will make all types of housing easier to build.

While affordable housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, the municipality supports it through several initiatives. You can learn more here.  

Why are these changes necessary?

These changes are largely in response to:  

  • Declining housing affordability and availability – the vacancy rate for rental housing has been at 1.0% for 3 years in a row, and rental prices increased by over 11% on average last year alone; 
  • A growing housing shortage that is estimated at 20,000 units in HRM and growing;
  • Challenging market conditions which include high interest rates and labour shortages;
  • Rapid population growth – the population is growing at close to 2 – 4.5% annually. HRM’s population increased by more than 20,000 people last year;
  • The Housing Accelerator Fund created by the federal government, which aims to add an additional 2,600 housing units to HRM’s housing stock over the next 3 years;
  • Provincial legislation designed to increase and streamline housing approvals, including the work of the Executive Panel on Housing.
How will the municipality protect heritage buildings and areas in the Regional Centre?

Maintaining Heritage Properties and Areas is a key objective of the proposed changes. 

To balance the significant upzoning proposed in Established Residential (ER) areas in the Regional Centre, it is recommended that additional incentives are provided to maintain or register new heritage properties.

This includes expanding the heritage development agreement policy to the Downtown Halifax Zone to support additional housing and heritage preservation and broadening the proposed set of Heritage Conservation District study Areas. Visit the interactive map to see the location of proposed HCDs.

The proposed changes seek to expand the area of some Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs) that are currently being proposed in existing low-rise neighbourhoods in the Regional Centre. These HCDs include:

•    Five Corners, Dartmouth; 
•    Downtown Dartmouth, Dartmouth;
•    Oakland Road, Halifax; and
•    Creighton’s Field, Halifax

The proposed changes also recommend four new HCDs to be added to the list of existing proposed HCDs above. The new HCDs include: 
•    Flower Streets, Dartmouth;
•    Ropeworks, Dartmouth;
•    Young-Woodill Divisions, Halifax; and
•    Jubilee Road, Halifax. 

The properties within the ER Designation within these HCD study areas are recommended to be re-zoned ER-2, which will balance the broader application and increased permissions in the proposed ER-3 zone. 

What are some examples of changes being made based on resident feedback or staff analysis?

Staff received significant feedback on the proposed amendments, both positive and negative. Nearly half of all public feedback received was specific to an area of local concern – a specific zoning change proposed in a certain neighbourhood. Read the What We Heard Report for more details on the public feedback process.

In response to these concerns, staff reviewed the zoning in these areas and are suggesting some modifications while still ensuring that key housing goals are met. These key changes include:

  • Revised zoning and heights in areas near post-secondary institutions (Peninsula South and Peninsula North), and along Victoria Road;
  • Additional lot size and urban design requirements for Established Residential areas;
  • One additional proposed Heritage Conservation District (HCD) and expanded boundaries for one existing proposed HCD, for a total of eight proposed new or expanded HCD study areas in the Regional Centre;  
  • Addressing additional site-specific requests in the Regional Centre; and
  • Minor changes to Suburban Opportunity Sites.
How is the municipality planning for infrastructure (e.g. roads, sewers, parks, schools) to support the population growth? 

Planning and Development staff continuously share information and work with service providers, including Public Works, Halifax Transit, Halifax Water, Parks and Recreation, Halifax Regional Centre for Education, and emergency service providers. This allows us to assist in coordinating infrastructure planning in response to unprecedented population growth in the municipality.

For example, Halifax Water is in the process of updating planning documents to identify upgrades and funding required to their network to support this anticipated population, and Halifax Transit has a Rapid Transit Strategy  to support future growth.

Addressing constraints in local water, wastewater, stormwater and transportation infrastructure are the responsibility of the developer. The municipality and Halifax Water will continue to address regional infrastructure and service needs in both the short and long-term. 

When will these changes come into effect?

Introduction and first reading occurred at Regional Council on April 23, 2024. After making a series of amendments to the proposed changes, Regional Council proceeded with a public hearing on May 21-23, 2024.

Regional Council approved the proposed changes on May 23, 2024. However, Ministerial approval is required prior to these changes coming into effect.

This website will be updated as the timeline for these amendments evolves.

What changes did Regional Council make to the proposed amendments at First Reading?

First Reading is Regional Council’s first look and opportunity to review and adjust the proposed amendments that were brought forward by staff.

The following 19 adjustments to the package of changes to our planning documents were added on April 23, 2024 and will also be considered for approval at the Public Hearing:

  • Increase the floor area ratio (FAR) for 219 Main Street, Dartmouth from 6.0 to 6.5
  • Rezone the 6400 block of Pepperell Street, Halifax to the Corridor (COR) zone at 7 storeys in height. 
  • Rezone 6 to 20 Ropewalk Lane, Dartmouth from the COR zone with a maximum height of 9 storeys to the ER-3 zone with a maximum height of 11 metres. 
  • Rezone 5 to 23 Ropewalk Lane, Dartmouth from the COR zone with a maximum height of 7 storeys to the ER-3 zone with a maximum height of 11 metres and including the properties back into the Dartmouth North (DN) Precinct and Dartmouth North 1 Special Area. 
  • Reduce the floor area ration (FAR) for from 3.0 to 2.25 for CEN-1 zoned properties on the block bound by Creighton, Cunard, Nora Bernard, and Gottingen Streets in Halifax.  
  • Remove 560A to 560D Herring Cove Road, Halifax as Suburban Area Opportunity Sites from the Suburban Housing Accelerator MPS and LUB. 
  • Add 10 Kearney Lake Road, Halifax as a Suburban Area Opportunity Sites from the Suburban Housing Accelerator MPS and LUB with a maximum height of 4 storeys. 
  • Reintroduce maximum bedroom counts for ER-3 zone in the Regional Centre Plan Area. 
  • Rezone 1 MacRae Avenue, Dartmouth from ER-3 with a maximum height of 11 metres to Higher Order Residential (HR-1) with a maximum height of 5 storeys. 
  • Increase the maximum height of 122, 126 and 134 Renfrew Street, Dartmouth from 5 storeys to 7 storeys.
  • Housekeeping in the Bedford LUB to ensure consistency for backyard suites across HRM.
  • Add 22 Mcintosh St, Halifax as a Suburban Area Opportunity Sites from the Suburban Housing Accelerator MPS and LUB with a maximum height of 3 storeys. 
  • Housekeeping in the Regional Centre LUB to ensure consistency. 
  • Adjustment to the Development Agreement policy for 112 and 114 Wyse Road (Case 22487) to allow an additional 2 storeys in height so long as the built form is the same and 25% of units are maintained as 2-bedroom units. 
  • Adjust the requirement for solid-waste management screening for three-, four- and multi- unit dwelling uses in the Regional Centre. 
  • Initiate a separate process to consider heritage registration for 6 to 20 Ropewalk Lane, Dartmouth. 
  • Rezone 6411 Coburg Road and 1530, 1538, 1540, 1550, and 1566 Oxford Street, Halifax HR-1 with a maximum height of 7 storeys to ER-3 with a maximum height of 11 metres.
  • Increase the maximum height from 7 storeys to 9 storeys for sections along the north side of Coburg Road and three properties on the west side of Oxford Street in Halifax. 
  • Initiate a separate process to consider allowing more than one backyard suite on a lot. 
  • Initiate a separate process to explore the potential to incorporate municipally leased spaces in private mixed-use buildings for community uses such as libraries, daycares, clinics, bakeries, food banks, and below-market leases for non-profits and social enterprises. 
  • Initiate a separate process to review requirements for common space, living space, or non-habitable rooms in small-scale multi-unit dwelling uses in ER zones. 
I’m planning to build a new building on my property, but I haven’t started yet. How will the proposed changes affect my permit application?  

Some property rights might change upon Council's adoption of the proposed changes to planning documents.  While in most cases this will mean additional flexibility, in some cases new requirements may also apply. If you are planning to develop your property, Section 253 of the HRM Charter requires that you must:

  • Receive construction permits for your new development before the first notice of intention to adopt the new Plan;
  • Start construction within one year; and
  • Complete that construction within a reasonable time.

If you haven’t received a construction permit for your development before Council publishes a notice of intention to adopt or amend the Land Use By-law, your application will be subject to both the existing and new regulations.

Please check with HRM Planning and Development if you have a question about how these rules may apply to your property. You can contact the Planner you’ve been working with, visit our customer service desk on the 3rd floor of Duke Tower, or call 311 to start an inquiry. 

What is the HAF?

The Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) is a federal program that is administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The HAF will provide up to $4 billion in funding directly to local authorities to incentivize and support initiatives that accelerate the supply of housing.

In order to receive funding, the municipality must meet the conditions of the HAF agreement, including Regional Council’s approval of additional zoning changes to create at least 2,600 additional units. The HRM must implement the initiatives identified in the Action Plan within two years of the start of the HAF program.

One of the initiatives is focused on regulatory changes for housing. Many of the adjustments to planning documents being proposed are in response to these requirements.  

How can I find more information?

This website contains all the information related to the changes to planning documents in support of the HAF.

If you have any further questions, you can reach out to staff by email at haf@halifax.ca.  

 

Interactive Map

Updated as of May 7, 2024

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:   

an image of four blue buttons that correspond to the buttons in the interactive map platform.

 

Use the Basemap icon to change the basemap  

Use the Filter icon to select specific proposed zoning options  

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

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

 

Please refer to the fact sheets (see the Further Information & Resources tab above) or full package of amendments and the staff report for further details on the proposed changes.

 

Missing Middle Housing - Video 1
Missing Middle Housing - Video 2

 

 

four logos aligned horizontally: the national housing strategy, Canada, CMHC and Halifax