As parts of Halifax continue to see rapid growth, there is growing concern about whether the infrastructure can support the increase in population.
The provincial government announced approvals this week for up to 2,060 homes in three special planning areas in Bedford West — an area that has been growing exponentially. The proposed developments, which include townhomes and apartments, have had bylaw and zoning amendments approved.
“We’re happy to see more housing, I’m happy to see more housing in my riding,” said Bedford South Liberal MLA Braedon Clark. “But I think to have 2,000 units — maybe 5,000 to 6,000 people — come in the area over the next few years, there’s a lot of infrastructure and planning that needs to go along with that, particularly schools.”
Just this year, a new pre-primary to Grade 8 school and high school opened in the area, in a bid to address overcapacity issues at nearby C.P. Allen High School.
Clark has written to the education minister for details on four new schools that the province has pledged to build somewhere in Halifax.
The municipality feels the strain too.
“We’re a growing municipality, and for example, we’ve added about 30,000 people to HRM this year. So at the rate we’re growing, we know that our need for housing has never been greater,” said CAO Cathie O’Toole.
Councillor Tim Outhit points out the challenges don’t stop at housing. There’s everything else that residents need in these neighbourhoods.
“Growth done well is a good thing. And the developers in those areas build nice homes in nice neighbourhoods, but the problem is the infrastructure has taken too long to keep up with it,” he said. “By infrastructure, I mean transit, I mean road improvements and to some extent, recreation improvements on the small scale — things for the kids to do.”
The chair of the Executive Panel on Housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality, Vicki Elliott-Lopez, says the special planning areas in Bedford were determined based on growth and opportunity.
“Not all are going to be quick to market, but they may have a yield of 4,000 units down the road. So they did come as recommendations from HRM staff to the executive panel, and that was one of the growth nodes they identified,” said Elliott-Lopez.
Elliott-Lopez adds that there are also challenges and concerns about the cost of the new builds, and she hopes developers will be supporting affordability.
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