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Halifax ‘running out of land’ for development

Stephen Adams, executive director of Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia, says some developers are moving outside of Halifax to take advantage of developable land
2710 SCENE construction DR128
(Dan Riedlhuber/St. Albert Gazette)
While Halifax has recently seen a development boom, a local developer says the city is running out of available land to meet the demand.

“The development that’s occurring now is moving along well, but the development and the proposals and the applications that are in the queue — we’re patiently waiting to get those approved,” Stephen Adams, executive director of Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia, says. “And we’re running out of (developable) land. There’s running out of opportunities, and I know some developers are moving outside of HRM to take advantage of that land.”

Adams told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show the boom is mostly affecting residential properties.

Monday March 29th, at 11:15am, tune into the Rick Howe Show on 95.7FM to Catch Jordi Morgan's Interview with our Executive Director, Stephen Adams, to talk about UDI's role and operations here in Nova Scotia.

Posted by UDI of Nova Scotia on Friday, March 26, 2021

Despite a global pandemic, buying property in Halifax has been difficult for many homebuyers — and developers can't seem to keep up.

“The developers and the builders and everyone associated with development are chomping at the bit to get more approvals," Adams, who was a Halifax councillor for nearly three decades, says. "We see the demand. There are houses that are selling in excess of $100,000 over asking — sight unseen — and need work.

“That’s unheard of.”

As an example, Adams says someone he occasionally works with saw a property listed for $450,000, submitted an offer of $525,000 and was only the fourth highest offer.

Purchasing a property in Halifax has been competitive. In 2018, properties would be on the market for an average of 34 days; that number dropped to an average of 10 days in 2020.

But Adams says Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia isn't looking for more land to be available for development.

Instead, he says the way money is distributed through the government is a barrier.

“When the federal government gives monies to the municipality and they have to give them to not-for-profits, that encumbers what the builders and developers can do,” he says.

In December 2020, the federal and provincial governments announced a combined investment of $10.5 million into creating 52 affordable housing units in Halifax.

The North End Community Health Association was to receive $1.2 million to create 10 units, but Adams says that's "not the way to do things."

He says a request for proposal (RFP) with specific standards and requirements should be created putting the money into the private sector. Then, the terms can be handed over to the not-for-profits to run the buildings.

At the end of last year, Halifax launched an online system meant to hasten the speed affordable housing applications are approved. However, Adams says there have been some concerns that the system isn't properly working.

When Halifax reviews its budget, Adams says he'll ask the municipality to create a four-person team to review affordable housing applications.

"That does two things," he said. "It gets the affordable housing to the market quickly and it takes the pressure off the other processes and those other streams so those that aren't under the affordable housing program will have a little more speed with their approval process, too."


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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