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Halifax council rejects developers request to opt-out of providing affordable housing units

Halifax council rejects developers request to opt-out of providing affordable housing units at the building on Bedford Highway. (Courtesy: City of Halifax) Halifax council rejects developers request to opt-out of providing affordable housing units at the building on Bedford Highway. (Courtesy: City of Halifax)
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Halifax city council rejected a developer’s request to back out of a deal it made with the Halifax municipality to provide affordable housing units.

Three years ago, Rockingham Station Ltd developer, Nick Stappas, received permission to build an eight-storey apartment building at 205 Bedford Highway. The building is allowed to be three-storey’s higher than what is allowed in the area, because 33 per cent of the units would be affordable.

18 out of the 55 units in the building will be affordable and discounted over 15 years. The affordable units are primarily one-bedroom, which will be rented out at a 30 per cent discount to comparable units.

When the developer first introduced the project to the city in 2019, staff recommended not to go forward with this development.

However, the city said it overturned staff recommendation due to the property owner’s commitment to providing affordable housing units.

Both the city and developer came to an agreement prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Since then, the developer said the falling rate of economic growth has made operating under this arrangement economically unfeasible and financially unviable.

During the Halifax Regional Council meeting on Tuesday, the developer requested to apply a cash-in-lieu public good payment of $174,620.81 dollars to go toward Halifax’s Affordable Housing Grant Program (AHGP), instead of providing the affordable units.

Council unanimously rejected this.

“I’m not very happy with this. 18 affordable apartments and they already completed eight storey’s of the building,” explained councilor Kathryn Morse.

Others agreed.

“It’s sad the current market might have affected this. But we approved this based on the affordable housing, not because we thought the building was the best thing to be build,” said councilor, Lindell Smith.

With the exterior construction of the building already up, including the extra floors, councilor Waye Mason said, if it were possible to jack-hammer the top three floors they would consider this request but since that is not possible, this is something the developer will have to figure out.

“The market always changes. You’re going to have this building for 50 years and the market is going to go up, down and sideways.”

Following this vote, a report presented by staff to the council members introduced a ‘best practice’ framework that Halifax should focus on requiring all new developments to either include affordable units or apply a cash-in-lieu to build units elsewhere.

The report said this model would address the needs of those who cannot afford market rents and are also not eligible for social housing.

Councilors supported in moving forward with an analysis on how the framework could affect rental prices and the housing market.

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