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Utility board approves Halifax Water’s ability to waive fee for affordable housing developments

A Halifax Water vehicle on Barrington Street on Jan. 30, 2020. Alexander Quon/Global News

Halifax Water has received approval from the province’s utility and review board to defer the collection of a fee for developers of non-profit affordable housing.

In a press release issued on Friday, Halifax Water confirmed that on Oct. 29, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) had approved its request to have the ability to defer the collection of the Regional Development Charge (RDC) for non-profit affordable housing developments.

The RDC is a fee normally charged to developers or property owners to pay for upgrades or oversizing of the infrastructure needed to support the property.

The decision by the UARB allows Halifax Water the ability to defer collection of the RDC for up to 10 years, with interest being waived for the first two years for affordable housing initiatives.

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The RDC fee that developers are charged can vary and depends on where the property is located, the type of development and the number of units.

It’s been argued by members of Halifax Regional Council that companies trying to construct non-profit affordable housing are deterred by the RDC.

Some councillors have wanted Halifax Water to waive the fee for those building affordable housing, a topic which was up for debate at the most recent meeting of Halifax Regional Council.

It was the belief of council during the Nov. 9 meeting that Halifax Water didn’t have the ability to unilaterally waive the RCB fee.

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Most of Halifax’s new municipal council sworn-in – Oct 29, 2020

As a result, council voted for Mayor Mike Savage to send a letter to the provincial government asking them to amend Nova Scotia’s Public Utilities Act in order to allow UARB to grant Halifax Water the ability to waive fees if they choose.

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But that does not appear to be the case, according to the release sent out by Halifax Water on Friday.

The UARB’s decision to approve Halifax Water’s application means they will soon have the ability to waive the fee.

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“This payment deferral program helps remove a potential barrier to initial development of affordable housing projects in our region. Halifax Water is pleased to be able to support this initiative,” said Cathie O’Toole, CEO of Halifax Water.

The utility says they expect to receive an order from the UARB that outlines the changes in January.

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