Mayor Mike Savage

Mayor Mike Savage

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Published: November 7, 2023

I often reflect on my first meeting with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, shortly after I was first elected Mayor. The Chamber’s goal then was for Halifax to emerge from its stagnancy to become one of the top three growth cities in Canada.

Well, we did that. Our population increase has been staggering, making us the fastest growing big city in Canada. This growth is evident across the municipality, with the country’s fastest growing downtown, along with strong suburban growth, and sustainable rural growth.

Our Council has worked to accommodate growth pressures, in particular the need for housing. Our Regional Plan (including the Downtown Plan and Centre Plan), Integrated Mobility Plan, and Green Network Plan have focused on supporting more people living in more places throughout the region.

The target of our 2016 Economic Growth Plan was 550,000 residents by 2031 – a goal some thought unrealistic at the time, but our current trajectory will put us well above that figure. When the pandemic hit, we anticipated growth would stall, but it exploded, exceeding all expectations.

Today, we continue to work with the federal and provincial governments and others to increase housing supply. It is a challenge made worse by higher interest rates, labour shortages, and supply chain issues. Tens of thousands of units (including 37,000 from the Centre Plan area alone) could proceed, but many are stalled by economics. Hardest of all, is the glaring fact that hundreds of our fellow citizens are homeless, including many who have a job but cannot afford a place to live.

I’m hopeful that we are finally seeing serious measures to address this crisis. Among them, the reduction of federal and provincial sales tax on rental housing construction, and direct federal funding to municipalities under programs such as the Housing Accelerator Fund — to unlock supply, and the Rapid Housing Initiative to support deeply affordable homes. I’m also pleased to see the first provincial investments in decades in new public housing units.

Council recognizes the need to approve developments that serve the supply need, even when there is neighbourhood opposition. We have implemented significant upzoning measures to increase density. We supported leaner development approval processes, allowed secondary residential suites, regulated short term rentals, provided municipal land, waived fees, and provided grants for affordable housing.

We will need every tool at our disposal to get more homes built as Halifax continues to see record-breaking population growth.

It’s time to better recognize who benefits most when people from other lands and other provinces decide to move to Halifax. Consider what’s happened to the province’s books. The province took in nearly $2 billion more in revenue last year: monies tied to the taxable earnings and spending of a growing population at a time of inflation.

More than 75 per cent of Nova Scotia’s population growth is happening in Halifax, creating extraordinary pressures to provide residents with the basics of a livable city: from emergency services and public transit, to recreation, parks, and wastewater.

As a country, we need to better link municipal revenue with population, economic growth, and services. In my role as chair of the Big City Mayors Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities I have already begun conversations about how a new fiscal growth plan for cities and communities might work.

We have a real opportunity to do better, to create complete communities that continue to attract people, and that are sustainable while offering a quality of life all Canadian residents should expect.

As we enter the final months of 2023, let us resolve to continue to create a city and community we are proud to call home; a Halifax that offers a place for all, ready to face the future with purpose and hope.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you

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