The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre’s building on College Street. — Photo: Google Maps Credit: Google Maps

One of the three projects receiving federal affordable housing money through the municipality is a step closer to reality after Halifax regional council voted on Tuesday to send the project to a public hearing.

The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre is set to receive $2,878,400 to redevelop its property at 5853 College St. to create a 30-bed shelter, 10-room shared housing and seven one- or two-bedroom units for urban Indigenous people.

The money comes from the major cities stream of the federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). That program allocated about $8.7 million to Halifax to be spent on affordable housing projects that can be completed within a year. Council voted in November to spend the money on the Friendship Centre’s project along with one from Adsum Women and Children and one from the North End Community Health Centre. The Friendship Centre will also receive $832,000 in provincial funding through the municipality for its project.

The Friendship Centre already owned the property, but there was one hurdle to overcome for the project to be viable: it’s not zoned for a 17-unit residential development, even though it was recently used as an emergency shelter and before that, a federal halfway house.

In December, council voted to initiate the process to allow more residential density on the site, and on Tuesday it passed a motion to move the project further along.

In a report to council, municipal planner Jillian MacLellan wrote that staff advise that the land-use bylaw for the area “should be amended to enable the development of 17 units/rooms to provide deeply affordable units and utilize the federal RHI funding.”

“The amendments will allow the specific uses of a multiple unit dwelling, shared housing, an emergency shelter and community facility space, which will allow the proposed development by the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre,” MacLellan wrote.

“The proposed provisions are intended to be broad to provide flexibility to allow the building design to celebrate the Mi’kmaq culture.”

Due to nearby heritage properties, MacLellan wrote that the bylaw amendments will require a pitched roof and some distance from the neighbouring property on Carleton Street.

“Further, specific building materials that do not reflect the historical nature of the streetscape are prohibited,” MacLellan wrote.

Preliminary designs posted to the Friendship Centre’s Facebook page in December indicate the building will be three stories tall with 8,500 square feet of floor area.

Plans for the second floor of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre’s College Street project. — Photo: Facebook Credit: Facebook

The design shows a shelter on the first floor, “dorm style” rooms on the second floor, and bachelor units on the third floor.

The Friendship Centre plans to demolish the building on the site now.

Council voted in favour of the staff recommendation to approve first reading of the bylaw amendments, and send the project to a public hearing.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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