MP Andy Fillmore is going to bat for Halifax regional council in negotiations between the federal and municipal governments on HRM’s application for millions in housing funding.
But the former HRM planner also believes the municipality can go further — and higher.
Council voted on Tuesday to expedite zoning changes to satisfy most of federal Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser’s requests. Fraser made four requests in response to the municipality’s application for more than $70 million under the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.
In a letter to Fraser on Thursday, Fillmore noted the minister’s request for legalizing four storeys across the regional centre of HRM “was met with some objections by Councillors.”
“Council has therefore asked for flexibility in meeting the intent of this suggestion,” the member of parliament for Halifax wrote.
During a joint federal-provincial housing announcement on Wednesday, Fillmore said he understood councillors’ objections.
“They’re protecting that lower height limit because it really did flow from a significant number of years of good faith public engagement with the community,” Fillmore said.
“And they feel that there are many options, and I agree with them, to achieve that density without changing height.”
In the letter, Fillmore wrote that council “has moved the needle on this issue very quickly.”
“They have objected to one measure, but have signaled a willingness to compromise and be creative in achieving our shared goal of getting more density and housing built quickly,” Fillmore wrote.
“We should be open to exploring more ways to achieve greater density, especially in the form of so-called ‘missing middle’ housing in the urban core (townhomes, smaller multi-unit apartments, etc.), and consider Council’s amendment as a starting point.”
Council put forward “constructive compromises that bear consideration,” Fillmore wrote.
Fillmore argued the federal government has a role, too, in helping the municipality increase water and wastewater capacity, updating building codes, and making federal land available housing development.
MP wants four storeys ‘wherever viable’
He also argued council can go further, and he’s willing to act basically as a mediator between the two parties to come to an agreement “that addresses the city’s apprehensions about a blanket 4-storey upzone.”
Fillmore suggested increasing height near transit and universities, adding four-storey height allowances in the regional centre “wherever viable,” and more.
“Council has signaled they are willing to meet again to consider alternatives to the four-storey recommendation, and I am willing to continue working with your office and Council towards a solution so that our government can continue to partner with HRM to get more housing built as quickly as possible,” Fillmore wrote.
The Halifax Examiner asked Fraser’s office for a response to council’s vote on Tuesday, and we’ll update this story with any response.