Councillors have approved a plan for 3,000 homes in Shannon Park, and 20% of those will be affordable, according to Canada Lands Company.
As the Halifax Examiner reported last month, the development will create 23 new city blocks. Maximum building heights range from 23 metres to 90 metres, or about 28 storeys.
Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation, took possession of the 34-hectare site after former military housing was demolished. The company plans to start building roads and selling lots in 2024, acting senior director Mary Jarvis told the Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council Thursday night.
The community council held a public hearing in Dartmouth to consider a development agreement. Twelve people spoke, and almost all of them had the same priority: affordable housing. And Canada Lands made a commitment.
“Providing affordable housing is a critical piece of the Shannon Park development and it’s something that’s that stands really at the core of how Canada Lands envisions the development of their communities,” WSP planner Anne Winters, speaking on Canada Lands’ behalf, told the community council.
“Canada Lands is looking to push the envelope in affordable housing provision for Shannon Park and is striving to provide a minimum of 20% of all future units on the site to be dedicated as ones for affordable housing.”
Which definition of ‘affordable?’
Winters didn’t offer a definition of affordable housing. It can vary from the old standard of 30% of a tenant’s income to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 20% less than market value. HRM doesn’t have any requirements, preferring instead to require developers to pay into its affordable housing fund in lieu.
Speakers told councillors and Canada Lands they want to see truly affordable housing built on-site.
“I beg you to define affordable as being 30% of one’s income, so rent-geared-to-income or mortgage-geared-to-income or whatever that looks like,” area MLA Susan Leblanc said.
“I implore you to be courageous in defining affordable like that … I’m hoping that when things go to market, that there will be a prioritization of not-for-profit housing, of co-op housing, so that we can ensure that it truly is a mixed development and people of all income levels will be able to live in this beautiful, beautiful area of the city.”
Lisa Hayhurst is the Dartmouth chair of ACORN. She said HRM should write conditions into the development agreement to ensure affordable housing is built.
“Historically speaking, Shannon Park was affordable housing. It needs to remain that way,” Hayhurst said.
Patti Christie told councillors she grew up in Shannon Park.
“Housing created by this development will be affordable to many, but not all. As much as I would like to live on this land again, I don’t expect it will be affordable to me,” Christie said.
Council can’t require affordable housing
HRM planner Dean MacDougall told councillors they can only require in the development agreement what the Centre Plan allows. That doesn’t include affordable housing on site.
Nevertheless, Coun. Tony Mancini said he’s excited about the development.
“I look forward to that creative approach to affordable housing,” Mancini said.
“We need to be creative here, by all means, so here’s an opportunity to do this and set this stage for other types of development here.”
Deputy Mayor Sam Austin said it’s a good plan.
“It’s a vision that’s come about after a lot of community discussion. I’m very happy to support it,” Austin said.
“We desperately need housing. Not just affordable housing, we need housing … It’s most acute obviously for the folks who are at the bottom of the income spectrum. When there’s the push going on, it’s the people down at the bottom who are falling off and being totally let down in our market.”
The motion to approve the development agreement passed unanimously.
Canada Lands will build the road networks and sells lots to developers. Those developers will be subject to the Centre Plan’s Centre 2 zoning.