Affordable housing an issue in HRM

Council meets to discuss the future of Halifax

Mayor Mike Savage poses with regional council member in Halifax city hall on the lunch break of their council meeting. Photo: Jessica Emin

Some regional councilors think affordable housing should be a priority in their planning for the next term.

The Committee of the Whole for the Halifax Regional Municipality met today to discuss the priorities for upcoming city initiatives and budgets.

The council was presented with a long report that was meant to guide discussion of strategic planning.

Mayor Mike Savage asked the council and others working with HRM to discuss their views and opinions on the direction of the city in the upcoming years.

Councilors spoke at length about what is most crucial to the city. The HRM by Design municipal plan, economic strategy, arts and culture funding, transportation, transit, business planning and the Youth at Risk initiative are all hot topics.

Councillors Jennifer Watts, Gloria McCluskey and Waye Mason were vocal about the issue of affordable housing in the area.

“The North End is kind of booming right now,” said Watts.

She gave the example of the two 17-storey apartment complexes being built in the north of the city.

There should be a focus on making HRM an affordable and liveable community, said Watts.

“That’s what I’ve heard on the doorsteps of the community.”

However, Councillor David Hendsbee said HRM shouldn’t be focusing on affordable housing, as he believes it is for the most part a responsibility of the province.

Mason said there should be more discussion on affordable housing.

“I hear Councillor Hendsbee saying that we don’t want to be replicating the province’s services in terms of social service delivery and we don’t control Metro (Regional) Housing Authority but there are many things we could be doing,” he said.

“Defining affordable housing is pretty critical,” said Mason.

McCluskey preferred the idea of a rent-to-buy type of plan for affordable housing in HRM.

Other issues of contention between councillors were over funding for arts and culture.

Councillor Linda Mosher said according to past polls, HRM arts funding was very low on people’s priority lists.

Arts and culture should be a priority, according to Mason, who says he wants an arts advisory council made up of experts in the field. Arts funding in Halifax is below the national average of other medium sized cities in the country and should be higher, he added.

Savage said he wanted to open the floor to all without a time limit so they could fully voice their ideas.