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Council to consider cutting construction costs for affordable housing projects 

Can Mancini’s motion get Halifax out of it’s housing hole?

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Council approved deputy mayor Tony Mancini's motion to incentivize non-profits working in affordable housing to actually break ground. His motion asking for a staff report on what waving municipal construction fees for non-profits passed this week with an amendment from councillor Lindell Smith making sure eligible non-profits actually work within the realm of affordable housing.

Councillor Shawn Cleary's suggested amendment that the projects also be near public transit was hotly contested and defeated. Exposing council's differing opinions on what affordable housing is and who it's supposed to serve.

"From a policy perspective," says Jim Graham, executive director of the Affordable Housing Association Nova Scotia, "putting someone on very low income halfway down the Beaverbank Road to Rawdon doesn't make a lot of sense, unless you're prepared to support that with a whole whack of other infrastructure like good transit, and good grocery stores and a school and all the rest of it."

In 2016 council pledged to have 5,000 affordable units in five years. Councillor Sam Austin says the creation of new units—what Mancini's motion is hoping to improve—is where the city is failing, saying they are still in the single digits or tens for units built. (Of the 5,000, 2,700 units were billed for retaining and repairing which Austin says is actually going well.)

The complicated nature of housing—provincial jurisdiction versus municipal implementation; bylaws, developers, water fees—is faced with the current high demand: "About 40,000 households in Halifax are in critical need," says Graham. "It's going to take more than a few non-profits to actually make a dent in the hole that we're in." 

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