AFFORDABLE HOUSING

I HAVE PERSONALLY STRUGGLED TO RENT IN THIS CITY

        Availability was my biggest problem, and this was last year when the vacancy rate was at 2%. Being young, and a large breed dog owner, did nothing to help my search. I checked listings every day for almost 5 months and I never ended up finding a place to rent. For the same monthly price I was willing to rent for in this city, I now own a home instead. The only reason I had this option is because I was fortunate enough to have someone in my life with the capacity to co-sign with me. I pay for everything myself, but I never would’ve gotten approved for a mortgage on my own two feet. I know that I am privileged, but a year ago I was where a lot of you are right now...

            During this pandemic, grown and young adults I work beside are crashing at their friends or family’s place because they either can’t find anything that’ll take them, they can’t afford anything thats available, or they are straight up so busy working and/or parenting that they can’t see a place quick enough to get it. My O.A. was slapped with a 30% rent hike, with no notice, coming from the same landlord. His rent was raised to $1300 dollars a month, and less than a month later he and I were both on CERB. I have other colleagues that have been saving to put a down payment on a house for years and home ownership is now a new level of unattainable...

IT SHOULD NOT BE THIS HARD

FOR FULL-TIME WORKING ADULTS

TO LIVE AND BUILD A LIFE HERE.

PRESSURE THE PROVINCE

2 YEAR RENT FREEZE (AT LEAST)

ABOLISH THE CAPPED ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

THE LARGEST URBAN CENTRE OF THE MARITIMES - HOME TO ALMOST HALF THE NOVA SCOTIAN POPULATION.

The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in HRM now exceeds $1000. This is over half the monthly income of a full-time minimum wage worker.  If rents continue to increase at the current rate, Greater Halifax will soon become a place most of the population today won't be able to afford - and for many, it already is. We need a Rent Freeze right now. Our future Regional Council should demand the provincial government immediately set a 0% rent increase until the province and its people experience economic recovery, much like the one that took place earlier this year.

 

In Addition - 4 the benefit of renters AND homeowners...

 

In 2017, Halifax Regional Council unanimously voted for the mayor to write the NS government and compel them to end the Capped Assessment Program. I don’t know if the Mayor or Council ever actually sent the letter. Either way, I’d love to see this municipality take a firm stance and apply serious pressure. The provincial program was started with good intentions, however 15 years later and its flaws are apparent. 

 

"The Cap has made property taxes more stable and predictable for existing homeowners, but only in the short-term. Municipal property taxation has become extremely inconsistent throughout the region, with large variations in tax between homeowners living in similar structures. Low income individuals who do own a home pay lower taxes because of the Assessment Cap, however such families also have increased difficulty moving, as they would lose their Cap and face increased property taxes if they did. Rental pricing is being adversely affected as well. The majority of low-income individuals in Halifax reside in apartments. An apartment building’s tax bill is paid by the landlord and passed on to tenants through their monthly rent. The Cap has shifted higher taxes towards apartment buildings while also making it more difficult for renters to purchase their first home.

 

...It is also worth noting that Halifax, unlike other municipalities in the Province, has the authority to set policies limiting the increase in taxes payable by different residential taxpayers. Section 97 of the HRM Charter allows Council to limit residential property tax increases to a set percentage. Tools such as this may play a part in a larger solution or a transition to a different system. For instance, on its own accord Council could limit the increase in the tax bill of all homes regardless of whether they are capped or not capped by limiting the increase in assessed values for the purposes of taxes by a set percentage. This would be administratively complex but would eliminate some of the existing distortions. Staff would have to consider if they might modify this approach so it could apply to newly constructed homes.” 

- The Capped Assessment Program in Halifax, 2017

INCREASE AFFORDABLE RENTAL VACANCY % 

HALIFAX IS IN AN AFFORDABLE RENTAL CRISIS AND WE HAVE BEEN FOR YEARS. 

 

"The proportion of newer rental units is very high in Halifax compared to other cities.   This  has increased the quality of rental stock, and incentivized older buildings to upgrade in order to compete. This has affected affordability, because rents have increased faster than disposable income.  There are currently over 4,000 rental units under construction in the Halifax CMA, which is the highest level ever seen. At the same time, Halifax has experienced record population growth while an aging population has more seniors downsizing and switching to rentals.

 

As a result, the vacancy rate continues to drop, despite the consistent growth in rental supply.

- Halifax 2019 Rental Report

AVAILABILITY

COST TO RENT

A higher vacancy rate will lessen pressures on landlords to raise rents above fair market value and also motivate them to ensure properties are well maintained in order to retain consistent renters. If we can increase the supply of affordable rental units, a lower demand would help to lower our currently inflated rental rates. 

Large developments have a significant impact on supply over a short period when they eventually hit the market, but they take longer to complete. What can we do right now?

Our office rental vacancy is currently 16% and growing as businesses convert to online workspaces. We should retrofit these buildings into affordable units. Many of these office buildings are multi-floor, and each conversion would offer hundreds more units.

END HOMELESSNESS IN HRM

Did you know that ending homelessness would actually save this Municipality money in the long term? There are multiple studies that show that for every dollar that is invested in shelter and affordable housing, two dollars of societal costs are saved. Dramatic, positive results have been seen when we tackle the problem with “Housing First”, by offering our most vulnerable some stability, and a safe place they can rebuild their life.

This Municipality should work to create a Tiny Homeless Housing Village - a small community of cabins for our homeless population. HRM owns a surplus of former school properties that would be great candidates for this sort of project. School buildings could be reconfigured into kitchen and community spaces, and tiny homes could be built on the grounds.The cabins can be built in 2-3 days, and are as small as 8 feet x 12 feet. They have heat, electricity, and a lock on their door.  Many other Canadian cities have done this, and the results have been dramatically positive. 

 

Here is a link to see what I’m talking about. Here is a link to one of the studies I mentioned above.

https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/9864-SROI-Analysis-Dedicated-Site-Supportive-Housing-002.pdf

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