‘Huge’ Shannon Park development plan approved, will include 3,000 housing units

Click to play video: 'HRM council hears proposal to develop Dartmouth park'
HRM council hears proposal to develop Dartmouth park
Public consultation is on the horizon to get input on what to do with Shannon Park in Dartmouth. A developer and Canada Lands Company have put forward a proposal that would include 3,000 residential units, commercial space, a transit hub and more. – Jan 13, 2023

A development plan that would see 3,000 housing units built in Dartmouth’s Shannon Park has been unanimously approved by a community council.

The 86-acre former military housing site was purchased by Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation, in 2014.

According to an HRM staff report, the plan for the site includes:

  • 23 new city blocks
  • 3,000 dwelling units
  • around 145,000 square feet of commercial space
  • around 7.5 acres of public parkland, including a waterfront park
  • both on- and off-street active transportation trails and pathways
  • new public streets, municipal services such as water and sewer, and a transit hub.

Canada Lands says the anticipated start of the first phase of development is spring 2024, when it will begin building roads and selling lots. The company says it has a working relationship with Millbrook First Nation, which owns nearby land.

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Read more: ‘Transformational’ proposal would see 3K housing units built in Dartmouth’s Shannon Park

At least 20 per cent of the new units will be “affordable,” though what’s considered affordable in this case has yet to be defined.

Coun. Tony Mancini, who represents the communities of Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East, said in an interview Friday that this development is “huge” and has been in the works for years.

“As we all know, the municipality is growing so rapidly and we need places for people to stay,” he said.

Mancini said a big priority for the community is affordable housing.

“For me personally, we need to have affordable and accessible housing in Dartmouth North, specifically in Shannon Park,” he said.

The development plan for Shannon Park includes 3,000 residential units. Canada Lands Company

Twelve people spoke at a public hearing during a Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council meeting Thursday evening, the vast majority of whom stressed the need for truly affordable housing.

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Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc, who was the first speaker, said more and more people are coming to her constituency office for housing help — whether they were recently renovicted, facing rent increases or actively homeless.

“We are – we all know this – in a housing crisis,” she said.

Read more: Halifax sees highest year over year rent increase for a Canadian city, says CMHC

Leblanc said the average rent in Dartmouth North increased by 12.7 per cent last year, and the vacancy rate in buildings of 100 or more units in the area sits at 0.2 per cent.

“That means for people who actually live in the community now, if they are evicted, or have to leave their homes, there literally is nowhere to go,” she said.

Leblanc said it was an “exciting plan,” but called for a better definition of affordability. She noted that many developers consider “affordable” to be 20 per cent less than market rate.

“That does not mean affordable anymore, at least at the market rates that are happening right now,” said Leblanc.

“I implore you, I beg you, to define ‘affordable’ as being 30 per cent of one’s income. So, rent-geared-to-income, or mortgage-geared-to-income, or whatever that looks like.”

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WSP planner Anne Winters, speaking on behalf of Canada Lands, did not offer a definition of what will be considered affordable, but said affordable housing is a “critical piece” of the Shannon Park development.

“Canada Lands is looking to push the envelope in affordable housing provision for Shannon Park and is striving to provide a minimum of 20 per cent of all future units on the site to be dedicated as ones for affordable housing,” she said.

The first phase of development for Shannon Park is expected to begin in spring 2024. Callum Smith / Global News

In a statement, Canada Lands spokesperson Manon Lapensee said affordability will be defined by working with HRM and “exploring different assessments and available government projects.”

“Our commitment includes ensuring that affordable units are actually built on site,” she said.

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Lapensee said it’s too soon to speak of price ranges for the apartments and homes “since the start of construction is some time away and there are many different variables involved.”

“We understand however that we need to look at different models of affordability throughout the project,” she said.

Read more: Nova Scotia is in need of more public housing, advocates say

HRM doesn’t have any requirements for affordable housing, and it cannot be written into the development agreement as it can only include what is stipulated in the city’s Centre Plan.

Mancini told Global News the municipality’s main tool is density bonusing, where developers pay into a fund that is then granted to non-profit groups to build housing.

“My challenge with that is there’s no guarantee that those affordable housing units from that fund would be in Dartmouth North or Shannon Park,” he said, though he noted that Canada Lands has “examples across the country” of developments with affordable units.

He reiterated the commitment to having 20 per cent of the units at Shannon Park be affordable, and said “we’re going to have to have some conversations now with our staff and Canada Lands on how do we make that happen.”


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