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HRM needs more housing developments as population grows: commission exec

Experts forecast the Halifax Regional Municipality's population could grow to 650,000 fifteen years from now
Downtown Dartmouth sign (Meghan Groff/CityNews Halifax)

A Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission executive thinks the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) requires much more housing developments to support the city's forecasted growing population.

"I'm a 50-year-old and — not-with-standing the last couple of years of the pandemic — this past five or 10 years has been the best decade of my life as a Nova Scotian," Tim Rissesco, the commission's executive director, said. "We've seen growth and people not having to go down the road to find work. I think that is going to continue to grow, and I think this forecast is an indicator of that."

Earlier this week, Halifax Partnership forecasted that the HRM's population could grow to 650,000 fifteen years from now.

According to Halifax Partnership, the HRM's population — which currently sits just above 460,000 — could rise to 525,000 five years from now, and up to 650,000 in 15 years.

While growth is generally a good thing for cities, Rissesco said the only downside is the rising cost of housing in Nova Scotia.

"We all look in astonishment at how much houses are selling for in HRM and apartments costing," he told The Todd Veinotte Show. "We need more housing for people so that we can get the vacancy rate up a little bit so that people can find houses or apartments or condos or whatever they're looking for."

Rissesco said there are already some cranes and buildings being constructed in downtown Dartmouth, including at King's Wharf and near Moffatt's Pharmacy on Portland Street. But he'd still like to see more.

"I think we're lagging from where we need to be to be able to house all the people that want to come to HRM," Rissesco said. "We also need to have housing at all levels of the housing spectrum for people, both on the price point but then also on the size and the age of the housing."

In downtown Dartmouth, he said there are several surface lots that could support new housing developments, such as the Wyse Road corridor.

He added that areas near Mic Mac Mall, Shannon Park and the old Penhorn Mall could support townhouses, apartments and other housing.

"There's a lot of underutilized property inside the Circumferential [Highway] in Dartmouth that could be developed," Rissesco said.

"We need to rethink how we're using a lot of the space that we've left for just surface parking lots. ... We are in a bit of a housing crunch here, and we need to get moving on redeveloping some of this underused property in the urban core."

While Nova Scotia's population had been stagnant — sometimes even declining — for several years, some people began relocating to the province in the mid-2010s due to the appeal of smaller cities. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that growth.

"That growth has spiked really quickly, and I think our economic success in the Halifax region, and the population growth, is going to be like that proverbial snowball," Rissesco said. "Once it starts rolling, it's going to grow. So we need to dust off the plans that we have and found a way to build that housing so that people can find homes inside HRM."


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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