A rendering of Joseph Arab’s proposal for Gottingen Street. All renderings by Ekistics/Fathom
A rendering of Joseph Arab’s proposal for Gottingen Street. All renderings by Ekistics/Fathom

Regional council’s peninsula planning advisory committee is recommending in favour of a 16-storey development on Gottingen Street despite concerns around seven so-called affordable units.

Developer Joseph Arab wants to construct the building on the same lot as Victoria Hall, a municipally-registered heritage building dating back to 1884. The building at 2438 Gottingen St. housed low-income senior women for decades before being sold to Arab in 2013 and turned into market-rate rentals. The proposed development sites behind Victoria Hall, closer to Creighton Street.

According to the drawings submitted, there’d be 145 residential units (although a staff memo says 137) — two bachelors, 76 one-bedrooms and 67 two-bedrooms. The bachelors are 456 square feet, the one-bedrooms range from 470 to 927 square feet and the two-bedrooms from 787 to 1,256 square feet.

There’d be two levels of underground parking with a total of 78 stalls with vehicular access from Creighton Street.

Some renderings of the project have been updated since it was first proposed last year.

A rendering of the proposal from last February.
A rendering of the proposal from this February.

Seven of the units are proposed to be “affordable” for 15 years. Four of those would rent for 50% of market prices and three of those at 10% below market rates.

During a teleconference meeting on Tuesday, Halifax heritage planner Aaron Murnaghan told the committee “that HRM has no way to ensure they remain affordable housing units over time,” according to minutes posted Wednesday evening.

The committee identified several issues with the proposal, including a lack of units larger than two bedrooms, height “inconsistent” with the rest of the neighbourhood, and “concerns that affordable housing may be limited to one type of unit (ie. bachelor units) or be located within one section of the building.”

A rendering of the proposal from Creighton Street.

As one of the considerations tacked onto its recommendation for approval, the committee asked that the affordable units “be spread out over a cross-section of unit type and location within the building.”

The proposal also includes renovations to Victoria Hall, which will follow a separate process to the heritage advisory committee and then regional council.

The development agreement heads next to Halifax and West community council for first reading and then a public hearing and final decision.

Zane Woodford

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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    1. Yeah I hear you…..and just for 15 years. It’s quite sad that this is the best our province has been able to come up with so far 🙁

  1. So this developer gets an approval from HRM and he’ll sell it to someone else. He doesn’t have the money to build, no bank will touch this. These are the board members:Councillor Waye Mason – District 7 – Halifax South Downtown
    Councillor Lindell Smith – District 8 – Halifax Peninsula North
    Jason Cooke – Vice Chair
    Chloe Berezowski
    Jason Genee
    Margo Grant
    Adam Pelley
    Mathew Novak
    Laura Brennick
    Kavita Khanna

    of course Lil Way heads it up. Still in denial or maybe he just wants to help the developer sell the rights so he isn’t holding the bag on land that will never be a hi rise?

    1. This will get built. Here’s how construction financing works. you get a loan from a charter bank for 75% of the construction cost. That bank looks to see if you can rent the units (yes, demand is crazy for North End apartments), and is there someone to take out the loan when its complete. This is where CMHC comes in. If CMHC issues a certificate of insurance for the permanent loan, the next bank providing long term financing has the personal guarantees of the developer, PLUS a guarantee from the Federal Government that they will step in if there is a default. Once the developer gets the certificate, banks fall all over themselves to lend the construction money, as most of the risk has been eliminated. this is similar to how mortgage insurance works for the purchase of a single family house (20% down, or else you need to buy mortgage insurance). HERE IS THE REAL ISSUE. Developers pay a 4.5% mortgage insurance premium to CMHC to obtain the federal governments guarantee. this building is 145 units, so the construction cost is likely to be $250,000 per unit – lets say $35M. the take loan will be 85% of that or about $30M. this means the insurance premium is about $1.34M (about $9,000 per unit in fees). where does this premium go? into a pool of funds to offset the cost of apartment failures and foreclosures. Hmmm, how many new apartment buildings have gone bankrupt in Halifax over the last 20 years. I am not aware of any. if there are 2,000 apartments built in halifax in a typical year, and they all have CMHC mortgage insurance on takeout (lets say 90% do), then just for this market their fees are 2,000 units times $9000 per unit, times 90% usage of the program or $16.2M. OK, some of this is used to pay for staff salaries to underwrite the program, and they might actually need to put some of this money aside for an eventual failure, but there has to be at least $10M a year left over that government puts into general funds. So how much true affordable housing has been built in the past two decades (i.e., something owned by a nonprofit that will stay affordable in perpetuity? very few). In my mind, that is the conversation.

  2. Too bad it’s in the middle of a food desert. People with no cars have to go along way to a grocery store. This is been a problem on This Street for years

    1. the Grocery business is evolving like all others. gone are the days of 25,000 SF stores in every small community. Current stores are 70,000 SF and bigger, however they are also becoming hubs for pickup and delivery. You can now have groceries delivered to your door, and while this is clunky right now with the increased demand from COVID19, it will smooth out and get more efficient. Once Sobey’s launches Voila, things will pick up. As well, regardless of the changes in the grocery purchase model, business needs residential density in order to survive. a retail cannot go in too early and hope that people will show up. if we want banks, grocery stores and other services in a particular neighbourhood, we need lots of people to support those businesses. there is a long list of small grocers that have perished in the past decade (Home Grown Organic Foods circa 2012, the Carrot Co-op a few years ago. People first, then businesses show up. what is happening now is that we are just re-populating the Peninsula with the people that used to live here decades ago. the food will come back.