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Halifax urged to address north end gentrification as municipal election nears

Click to play video 'Housing advocates call for Halifax to stop gentrification' Housing advocates call for Halifax to stop gentrification
WATCH ABOVE: It’s the final week of voting before the Halifax municipal election. Housing advocates are calling for those who will be elected to stop the gentrification of predominately black communities. Alexa MacLean has more. – Oct 12, 2020

With the Halifax election only days away, whoever forms the group of incoming councillors is being urged to address gentrification in the municipality’s north end.

“I moved into my home here on Maynard Street 45 years ago and at that time, most of these homes that you see here now were owned by people of African descent. Things have truly changed a lot,” said Irvine Carvery.

Carvery is a former resident of Africville, the historic Black community that was razed by the City of Halifax in the 1960s under the premise of urban renewal.

Read more: Affordable housing advocates call on HRM to create social housing strategy

It’s a process that has displaced hundreds of black families.

Carvery says he’s witnessing the same process play out in the city’s north end,  the very neighbourhood where many displaced Africville residents re-established their community after it was destroyed.

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“This community, historically, is the home for the African Nova Scotian community in Halifax and now there are four families, African descent families left on this street,” said Carvery.

A recent mayoral forum on affordable housing hosted by non-profit housing organizations touched on the disproportionate impact of gentrification — often sold as revitalization — is having on Black Nova Scotians.

Click to play video 'Halifax homelessness rates at an all-time high, no affordable housing' Halifax homelessness rates at an all-time high, no affordable housing
Halifax homelessness rates at an all-time high, no affordable housing – Sep 11, 2020

“African Nova Scotian community members are being squeezed out of their homes and communities because of untenable increases in rent and housing prices,” said Vikki Samuel Stewart of YWCA Halifax during the forum.

Mayoral candidates who participated in the forum suggested a potential solution; using the newly announced federal program meant to rapidly increase affordable housing.

The program would acquire land and convert existing buildings into affordable units.

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However, those on the front lines of housing advocacy feel the city should not be waiting on other levels of government to address the urgent need to increase affordable housing stock.

Read more: GameChangers902 host Halifax mayoral candidates to discuss racism, equity

“The city can address gentrification. So, they can talk about zoning, they can talk about protection. We know gentrification disproportionately is impacting African Nova Scotian communities, particularly on the peninsula” said Miia Suokonautio, executive director of YWCA Halifax.

Voters will have the opportunity to determine how the city chooses to develop during the municipal election which is scheduled for Oct. 17.