Development group calls on Halifax council to defer highrise project

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Halifax groups wants city to defer approval of two towers
WATCH: A group of Halifax residents wants the city to defer the approval of two towers proposed for Robie Street. They say the developments near College and Carlton streets will demolish existing affordable housing and raise rents in the area. Jesse Thomas has more. – Sep 7, 2021

A citizens group in  Halifax is calling on the Halifax Regional Municipality to defer the approval of two highrise tower projects proposed for the Robie Street South area, as they say, the developments will demolish existing affordable housing and raise rents in the area.

Development Options Halifax says approval for a project called the Promenade Robie South, which includes two skyscrapers, one measuring 30 storeys and an adjacent 29 storey development should be reconsidered, given the affordable housing crisis in Halifax, says Peggy, a founding member of the citizens group and Halifax resident.

Cameron says the Promenade development project, led by developer Peter Rouvalis along with a second two-tower development proposal  at Spring Garden Road and Robie Street by Dexell Development would result in the demolition of a dozen properties that offer affordable housing in the area.

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“Together based on the reports that the Rouvalis and the Dexell projects have put together if you add up the total number of units it’s 109,” said Cameron.  “Given the affordable housing crisis, I think that council members have to defer their decision (regarding the Rouvalis and Dexell developments) until they can look at negotiating better outcomes for the existing affordable housing.”

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Cameron says there should be no demolitions and that large-scale highrise developments like these, don’t replace affordable housing units but only help contribute to the increase in rental rates.

“The kind of buildings that are being built are inflating rents and converting the city to an urban elite,” said Cameron.

Halifax west community council is holding a public hearing regarding the Promenade Robie South development agreement on Tuesday night and Cameron will petition to have the development deferred.

Hannah Bing is a student and has lived in the Robie Street South neighbourhood and says she’ll be presenting at the public hearing to share her experience and struggles to find an affordable apartment in Halifax.

“All the people that live here are young students or younger families,” said Bing. “So it is a very affordable neighbourhood and that’s the sole reason we chose to live here.”

Bing is concerned the highrise developments will not only increase the price of rent and change the face of the neighbourhood but force people to leave the city to find a place to live.

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“If you need to be in the city for things like school or work this is pretty much one of the slim options of places that are affordable,” said Bing.

Seven properties are slated for demolition and two historic properties will be moved to make way for the Promenade towers that would include more than 500 rental units once complete.

Councillor Patty Cuttell is a member of the Halifax and West Community Council and says she feels the pain of the neighbourhood and hates to see affordable housing lost, but says the projects have already been approved.

“I feel like we are in a catch 22 situation at the moment, where we know we need more units in our city and vacancy is so low, but when you build new it’s going to be more expensive,” said Cuttell. “So what we really need is an awesome, new affordable housing strategy and inclusionary housing where we can make some of the units in this building affordable.”

Cuttell said Halifax needs an affordable housing strategy in place and that the city isn’t going to solve the problem by the demolition of properties in order to build highrises.

“I don’t think that 30-storeys should be the new norm on the peninsula,” said Cuttell. “I think there are other ways of achieving density that really keeps the spirit of our city intact.”

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— with files from Alexa MacLean 

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