Part 3: CIP’s National Conference – Affordable Housing Policy Series

Written by Stephanie Cantlay

July 28, 2022

Cahdco attended the Canadian Institute of Planners’ National Conference with a special interest in the affordable housing sessions. Read the final posting of our three-part series.

Development Intern, Stephanie Cantlay, attended Elevation 2.0, the Canadian Institute of Planners’ (CIP) National Conference. This blog series will summarize one final session and highlight the themes that emerged from the conference. We also encourage readers to engage with our digital whiteboard conference summary.

Housing & Social Policy in Halifax

Presented by: Jill MacLellan & Kasia Tota (Halifax Regional Municipality
“A mid-size city with big housing problems”

Affordable housing is not just an issue for large municipalities and unfortunately is a concern for mid-size, rural and remote communities as well. Jill MacLellan and Kasia Tota explained the history of housing and social policies to provide context for the recent urban housing policy decisions, including some policies below:

  • Land use bylaw simplification
  • Variety of housing options
  • Regulating short term rentals
  • Density bonusing
  • Removal of minimum separation distance for shared housing

Through its density bonusing policy, Halifax Regional Municipality is building a reserve to fund its affordable housing grant program. Additionally, development and zoning permits are waived for non-profit affordable housing projects.

A snapshot of the mural the Cahdco team created for the session on Halifax’s approach to affordable housing.

Halifax Regional Municipality was a municipal stream recipient of the Rapid Housing Initiative to provide deeply affordable units for those experiencing homelessness. The projects were spread out across the municipality, including rural areas and highlight the importance of rural affordable housing projects. Although the urban plan is complete for the Halifax Regional Municipality, the suburban and rural plans are still in progress and will require separate policies to address the specific needs of affordable housing in theses areas.

Common Themes

The theme and guiding principles of elevation, new heights, moving forward and upward, vantage points, and taking paths to explore were observed as it relates to municipal housing policies.

  • Municipalities are elevating their policies to remove barriers and encourage affordable housing
  • Looking back on existing policies and evaluating their effectiveness is required to move forward and upward and make improvements
  • It is important to explore new vantage points and perspectives and recognize what works for one development or municipality may need to be adjusted in another context
  • Partnerships with non-profit organizations are a path to explore with increased development capacity in this sector

A snapshot of the mural the Cahdco team created summarizing the conference themes.

Finally, common successes and challenges or barriers to affordable housing were present throughout the presentations.

Affordable housing for whom? 

  • Core housing need is a straightforward measure, but does not consider the local context
  • Affordable housing criteria and requirements differ for each funding program and can be difficult to navigate and meet each requirement within one development
  • Some forms of affordable housing are still out of reach for those who need it most
  • Separate streams to evaluate affordable (missing middle) and deeply affordable (subsidized) housing developments is one approach

Opposition to development

  • Debunk the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) myths
  • Saying no to affordable housing is saying yes to homelessness
  • Affordable housing is a basic need and part of the public welfare

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

  • There is a need for disaggregated housing and homelessness statistics
  • For middle income earners, the impact of unaffordable housing is moving further away, but for the lowest income it means homelessness
  • Affordable housing is only affordable if it is dignified, adequate and culturally appropriate

Find someone to champion your project

  • The role of municipal planners is to champion affordable housing and speak up against opposition to development
  • Involve decision makers early in the process
  • Municipal financial support through grant programs, development charge waivers, and property tax reductions increases the number and level of affordable units

A snapshot of the mural the Cahdco team created summarizing the affordable housing themes that emerged over the course of the conference.

Have something you want to add? Add a sticky note to our digital whiteboard conference summary.

Stephanie Cantlay

Development Intern

July 28, 2022