Affordable housing is a growing problem in Halifax that needs to be addressed quickly, because it’s only going to get worse the longer it’s left. It can be broken up into two smaller related problems: lack of housing and cost of housing.
Halifax has been growing quickly, which is fantastic. But it also means there’s more people competing over housing, which has driven our rental vacancy rate to just 1%! Since there are too few places for people to live, landlords can raise prices because people lack options, which makes it more expensive for the people who manage to find places to live at all. Rent control could bring down prices, but it wouldn’t fix the issue of lack of housing. In fact it would probably make it worse, as more people would compete over cheaper housing, and there’d likely be less housing built because of the reduced profits by private investors. It’s frustrating, but we need to focus on realism.
So, if bringing down prices directly doesn’t fix the issue, we need to increase the amount of housing instead. That’s something we can do. Most housing is built using private funds, which means it’s not much more expensive for Halifax to build more. What we need to do is encourage and allow it, while respecting local architectural styles, existing residents, and green space. I think the best way to do this is to focus on setting up fair, simple, and standard rules for approval processes for companies to follow so that we don’t have to wait for years, at great expense, before new buildings get approved. But enforcing the rules strictly so that only companies that behave get to benefit is essential.