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Proposed legislation would let N.S. housing minister override Halifax bylaws

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The Nova Scotia government plans to do away with the five regional housing authorities and merge them into one new Crown corporation to oversee public housing. Callum Smith reports – Oct 20, 2022

Nova Scotia’s housing minister has introduced legislation that would give him the legislative authority to nullify Halifax Regional Municipality bylaws “to allow and encourage faster housing construction.”

John Lohr introduced the amendments to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter Friday. A release from the province said the legislation would ensure municipal bylaws “will not stand in the way of fast-tracking housing development and increasing supply.”

“We have an urgent need for more housing in HRM, and if we are going to ensure as many people and families as possible have a place to call home, we need to be looking at how we can speed up housing development,” said Lohr.

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“While we hope there will not be a situation where we have to use this authority, these amendments will allow the minister to intervene on behalf of Nova Scotians when bylaws are impeding housing development and construction.”

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The province said the legislation will not apply to long-standing bylaws. A nullification would have to happen within six months of second reading of the bylaw.

The bill was tabled Friday and will be read again at a future date.

B.C., Quebec and New Brunswick also have legislation that would give the minister or attorney general the power to override a municipal bylaw, “often with conditions and often related exclusively to planning matters,” the province said.

‘Lack of proper consultation’

In a statement, a spokesperson for Halifax said the municipality was only advised of the proposed legislation late Thursday evening.

“The lack of proper consultation with the municipality on legislation such as this is not in keeping with expected levels of communication and collaboration between the two orders of government,” the statement said.

“At this early stage, it is uncertain what today’s announcement means for the municipal administration, but more importantly, what it means for the residents of our region.”

The statement said the municipality intends to voice its concerns with the bill during the law amendments process, before adding that improving housing availability “remains a key priority for the municipality.”

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