Halifax is short 17,500 new housing units — and the gap is growing

Nova Scotia

A housing assessment commissioned by the province found that Halifax needs another 17,500 units, and that shortage is expected to become much worse in the next few years unless construction picks up.

Construction needs to increase by 6,000 units per year to meet demand, report says

Shaina Luck · CBC News

· Posted: Dec 07, 2023 5:00 AM EST | Last Updated: December 7, 2023

This building being built on Robie Street is one of many large construction sites in Halifax. (Paul Palmeter/CBC) Halifax needs at least 17,500 more housing units — and the current pace of construction means the shortage could grow to 31,000 units by 2027.

That’s one of the conclusions from a report by consulting firm Turner Drake & Partners. 

The province hired the company in the spring of 2022 to assess the housing needs of all 49 municipalities. In October,  the government released information about the province as a whole , but left it up to municipalities to disclose information about their local situation.

“It confirms, I think, the things that we always knew — that there is more people coming in than houses being built,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CBC News in an interview.

Halifax is short 17,500 new housing units — and the gap is growing A housing assessment commissioned by the province found that Halifax needs another 17,500 units, and that shortage is expected to become much worse in the next few years unless construction picks up. Shaina Luck has the story.

Since 2015, the municipality has seen more people moving to the city, peaking in 2021-2022 when the population grew by 20,344 to a total of 480,525, the report found.  

“It’s obviously a concern for us and particularly on the affordable side,” Savage said. 

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage holds a news conference in Ottawa on Monday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) He pointed to another of the assessment’s findings: that the number of permits increased 102 per cent between 2010 and 2022. Over that same period, the number of units under construction rose 42 per cent and the number of units completed shot up 50 per cent. 

“It also confirms what we’ve said, which is the problem isn’t on the permitting side,” he said, adding that he’s hearing from developers that with high interest rates and a lack of labour, many projects are being put on hold. 

“You know, it’s math. It’s expensive to build,” Savage said. “Right now you can’t expect the private sector to lose money on buildings.”

Closing the gap To meet the growing demand for housing, Halifax has to increase the number of units being built in the municipality by about 6,000 per year — a steep increase from the approximately 3,000 units that have been built annually in recent years.

Vicki Elliott-Lopez, chair of the executive council on housing in the municipality and a senior bureaucrat within the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, raised that point when speaking about the shortage to a committee of MLAs last Wednesday.

“Everybody here has agreed today that housing prices and rents have increased exponentially,” she said, outlining the department’s position that prices will stabilize only when the supply gap closes.

Byron Rafuse, the deputy minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, pointed MLAs to the provincial needs assessment , which contained a mathematical model built by the consultants. It used statistical data to predict the change in housing prices and affordability in Nova Scotia between 2002 and 2022. 

“Had Nova Scotia built 40,000 additional dwellings than were built since 2016, the overall residential market price would have been approaching $300,000 in 2022, rather than the nearly $635,000 actual price,” the report concluded, based on the modelling.

Check out your municipality Each of Nova Scotia’s municipalities has received its own local housing needs assessment. Click on your municipality below to see basic statistics from the report and a link to the full document.

How bad is the housing crunch in your N.S. town? Reports offer glimpse Each of Nova Scotia’s 49 municipalities now has a housing assessment paid for by the province and completed by an independent consulting company. Shaina Luck has the details.

A few municipalities did not respond to a request from CBC News to share the assessment, or have been delayed in doing so. They will be added to the map as they become available. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shaina Luck is an investigative reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. She has worked with local and network programs including The National and The Fifth Estate. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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